Blessing in Disguise

“Probably one of the first strokes of grace in my life was my father’s becoming totally paralyzed when I was eight years old, because it led me to becoming the kind of person I am now. Sometimes we understand grace only in retrospect. If someone were to ask me what grace is, I would probably respond, “It’s all grace.”

–Bo Lozoff, “Getting Free”

Tell me about a blessing in disguise.


  1. Tom Reed says

    My teenage daughters’ laughter coming from the kitchen woke me up. I’d fallen asleep watching football from my “command post” – a recliner in the living room where I could watch our ranch’s driveway of as well as the TV. I looked outside and saw what they were laughing about: Jesse’s car was parked out front.
    Jesse King was an enigma among my kids’ friends. In between my twin daughters’ and their older brother in age, he became a semi-fixture at our home throughout their high school years when we lived in Susanville, Ca. A gregarious guy who could talk easily with anyone of any age, he found out I surfed as a teenager and we often talked about his yearning to eventually live near the ocean, and mine to get back to it. Even though we lived half a day away with two mountain ranges between us and the coast, Jesse fixated on eventually living near and on the ocean.

    He was a natural comedian and accomplished prankster. Jesse was usually kind with his humor but I really enjoyed his sarcastic stuff which was always spot on and cerebral. I obviously liked the guy even though I felt compelled to keep an eye on him since he seemed to be sprung on one of my daughters. But the girls thought of him as a second brother instead of a romantic interest (I think).

    Then one day, he completely blew my mind. We both loved sushi and deplored the lack of it in Susanville except for the stuff in plastic boxes in the grocery stores which look (and probably taste) like that fake food in the windows of Japanese restaurants. Despite the difficulty of finding real human food in that town, somehow Jesse scraped together the ingredients for nori rolls, brought them to our house on my birthday and rolled up a great batch for me. I was stunned. His gift to me, knowing what he had to go through to find all that stuff, felt like a very special thing for anyone to do for me, but especially so coming from a lanky, sarcastic high school kid. His deep thoughtfulness for others at a normally self-centered age was a shock to me in a very good way. I’d learn there was a lot more of that in him.
    After graduation, Jesse joined the Coast Guard and did a tour in Washington DC on the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but he got to finish his hitch in his Nirvana. Stationed on the central California coast in Morro Bay, near San Luis Obispo, Jesse literally dived into life next to the sea and became the consummate waterman. He did everything – surfing, free and scuba diving, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding – if it created fun on the ocean, he did it. He gave back too, becoming a mentor in the Junior Guard program as well as a volunteer for the Harbor Patrol.

    I’d planned an epic writing project after I got my surfing legs back under me again after a 38-year hiatus. I planned to go on a “surf-about” starting from my new home in Santa Cruz and surf my way back to my teenage surfing grounds in Ventura County in southern California. I wanted to capture the subtleties and nuances, the essence, of “life close to the foam” on California’s central coastal in a journal I hoped would make a book someday (as well as coax out of the locals the locations of their secret surfing spots – which I would not reveal of course). When Jesse learned of my plan he insisted that I use his home in Morro Bay as my headquarters for “his” part of the coast and he’d introduce me around and take me to his favorite play spots. I was very grateful for his offer and eagerly looked forward to getting back together with him in the fall, the beginning of surf season on the west coast.

    Then, on July 1, 2009, Jesse left. Free diving to spear some fish for dinner, he went into a kelp bed and the ocean kept him.

    When a surfer passes on, his friends usually paddle out to his favorite break, hold hands and form a surfer ring to commemorate their friend’s life on the sea. But Jesse’s life was too full to be remembered in one act. Instead, his friends are devoting an entire weekend (October 22 – 23, 2011) to his memory by hosting the third annual Jesse King Memorial Paddle Out and SUP Board Races in Morro Bay, celebrating his love of the ocean, his friends, and his community ( ). All proceeds go to the Junior Guard program of Morro Bay, which Jesse was devoted to.

    How could a guy, just 28-years old, leave behind so many broken hearts that his friends and community feel compelled to hold such a memorial for him? His love for life and his community service were certainly factors. But Jesse’s greatest attribute in my opinion, was his thoughtfulness for what made others happy. Just like the sushi he conjured up for my birthday made a lasting impression on me; his thoughtfulness obviously extended to and was deeply felt by his many other friends too.

    I don’t know if he ever thought about Buddhism, but I believe Jesse lived in a Buddhist state of mind known as metta, which translates into a feeling of loving kindness, or an unqualified friendly attitude, toward the world. And that, I believe, is what led Jesse to create so many deep friendships that transcended his life in this reality. His genuine loving attitude toward his friends made them feel like they really mattered to him. He also wasn’t afraid to tell those he loved how he felt about them either. In one of his final letters to one of my daughters, Jesse said he felt like she and her sister were his “soul sisters”.

    And a comforting thought for me is: that kind of life is its own reward. Basking in the glow of so many true friendships, Jesse got to reap the rewards of the legacy of love he was creating while he was still with us. That insight is one of Jesse’s parting gifts to me. Another gift was his reminder that tomorrow might get here a lot sooner than any of us planned. I wish I would have gone on my surf-about in his area while he could still join me physically.

    Namaste Jesse

  2. Carly Vair says

    I would rather not believe in blessings. I would rather think I do everything on my own. All my successes and all my failures are mine alone. If I had to pick one thing, I guess it would be getting kicked in the face by a horse. If that hadn’t happened when I was thirteen, I might still be under the naive impression that horses, being domesticated, are harmless.

    But who really cares about that? I still don’t want to believe in blessings. Most people take comfort in blessings, assuming that they come from some Benevolent Higher Power. I might recognize and appreciate a blessing immediately, but in the long run, the overarching feeling is that the Benevolent Higher Power might not always be benevolent. What if, under the guise of teaching me a lesson or providing the proverbial fall after the pride, the aforementioned Higher Power revokes and reverses any good in my life? In my mind, the fear of curses is greater than the anticipation of blessings.

    • says

      Hi Carly, I appreciate your perspective. Thanks so much for taking the time to share it. For me, I read this quote as being more about resilience–and whether something that every started out feeling like a tragedy or a trauma ended up with a hidden gift inside–the gift of wisdom or perspective or a wake-up call or a new directions or a move toward becoming a more compassionate person….at least that’s how my mind turned when I read the quote–and created the prompt.

  3. Paula Hill says

    is not the corn kernel
    nor the soft innards beneath the husk –
    grace is the scent
    of corn popping on a hot stove
    upon walking in from an evening’s bitter rainstorm.

    …’s not the wheat atop the darkened soil,
    mellowing below blue skies –
    but the dance the fronds weave
    upon a meadow of summer’s toil
    in company with the late afternoon’s breeze.

    An angel’s touch is it?
    that grasped my soul
    in the polar grips of agony,
    of ecstasy –
    ripping away solid comforts,
    laying waste to all efforts –
    betrayed by fate’s rasping breath?

    A heron falls from the sky outside my morning’s window –
    death throes of feathers land on my bed.
    An omen
    from above
    wisps into the grief and darkness,
    shedding all but the weight
    of lightness….
    leaving only
    an urge…
    the “touch”…to follow the rhythm of my heart’s beat….

    Grace is the night we met…
    we met….a spark ignited between the fingers of our first innate touch….
    we knew…
    unseen…hidden but for us.
    obscure, but for angels.

  4. Jean West says

    “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” The priest’s eyes twinkled, at odds with his severely traditional cassock and Roman collar. “That church you saw outside your Parisian hotel was Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet. We thought it a calamity, during the French Revolution, when the Republic seized all the properties of the Roman Catholic Church. However, it was a blessing in disguise for those of us who believe there should be a restoration of the liturgy and devotions prior to the changes of the Second Vatican Council.” He elaborated, “Because the city of Paris owns the building, members of the Society of St. Pius X were able to occupy it in 1977 and there was nothing that the parish, diocese, not even Pope Paul VI himself, were able to do about it. The Tridentine Mass is said every day of the week there. God willing, the schism can be healed and we can worship as our conscience dictates within the embrace of Holy Mother Church.”

    (While I’ve had plenty of “blessings in disguise,” I’ve never forgotten this short conversation with a renegade traditionalist priest in Rome many years ago. The fact that the blessing took about two centuries to rebound has always taken my breath away!)

  5. Joyce Johnson says

    I recently attended a memorial service celebrating the ninety plus years of my friend named Grace. I had never felt that her name fit because she was a tough taskmasker, a believer in a job worth doing was a job done right. And she was quick to pick up on jobs not done to her standards. She was also quick to help those in need, to rescue those in danger, to step in and do a job needing done. At her memorial relative, neighbors, friends, fellow workers stood to speak of some kindness she had done, but they all added some example of her teaching them to do the best job possible. That afternoon I sat down to rewrite a small piece I had misplaced about my Grandaughter showing me a beautiful spider’s web.
    Grace took over and showed me a new definition of grace.
    for Grace
    Intricate weaving of
    tiny clear threads
    a spider”s web
    a delicate design
    between two olive leaves
    moving in the breeze
    visible only from the
    top of this rock
    To me
    a study in
    nature’s grace
    To the spider

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