When Life Gives You Oil…Go With It

It is now 6:30 am. I’m sitting here with Sydney, Sonia, and Jacob in Gardner Restaurant, a dinner that opens at 5 am in the small town of Garnder, Illinois. It’s a quaint little dinner. Clean and well light. The waitress is tired but friendly.  We are sitting in a booth by the window, listening in and out to the news blaring from the mounted TV on the wall and the conversations of the six, 60 year old-ish gentleman at the table right next to us. I am not sure who they are or why they are here so early. It seems that this might be a morning ritual of theirs. They are definitely regulars.

We had just gotten a ride here with Phillip, our new super nice trucker friend who, in his words, was “sent by G!d” to help us. Eli is still 30 miles down the I-55 with the bus, waiting for the tow truck to come take the bus to the auto shop.

This is indeed an interesting situation. Quite Topsy Turvy! There are two options: to view the current events through a lens of negativity or to see the good and opportunity within it. To see the cup half full. To make lemonade when life gives you lemons. To rolling with the punches. And, when stuck on the side of the road all day, to making shakshuka. This was that kind of situation.

You see, as can be expected, when traveling on a 9-ton bus with yet another bus flipped over on top of it, and which runs on veggie oil, things tend to not run exactly as planned.  Often. Things tend to run a little bit topsy-turvy. And very often its related to veggie oil.

Being that our “hunk-of-spunk” only gets 8 mile to the gallon, we need to find used veggie oil rather frequently. It usually takes a few hours, with several “no’s” and a couple of “too dirties” or “not enoughs”, before we find what we need.

Earlier this week we were in Kansas City. Last Sunday we spent three hours and toured 4 different restaurants trying to score some oil. It was getting late and we were getting tired. And hungry. The time for our dinner invitations was fast approaching. Topsy-Turvy Bus or not, we couldn’t be rude and late!

Finally, we found some oil at a sushi restaurant (that shall remain unnamed to protect the people and fish affiliated with the establishment). However, despite the fact that we were by this time feeling quite desperate, we were hesitant to take the oil. It was quite dirty. Yet, after careful consideration we decided that it was clean enough to take and worth the snatch.

So we unloaded our gear, got on our veggie-oil-clothes on, mentally prepared ourselves to get nice and oily and started working. Pumps a-blazing, bystander’s cameras a-snapping, and restaurant employee’s eyebrow a-twitching we started to pump it in. It was indeed dirt. We had to stop several time to clean the external filter on the pump and switch between their three oil-drums to try and determine which one was the cleanest of the dirty. And it was indeed not much. Even after we finished taking the oil Eli and the rest of us wondered if we should have taken it at all.

Fast forward to St. Louis. All that oil is long gone and we are about to head out on our 8 hour drive to Chicago. We don’t even have time to look for more oil! While were in St. Louis we really want to at least check out the famous St. Louis Arch. We have been rushing from program to program so much that we haven’t really had any time to do any “road-trippy, touristy” things along the way. We are determined to do at least one.

But another challenge of driving a 12 foot 9 inch mini-bus-and-a-half is trying to find parking downtown, as well as rodes with overpasses that our bus could get through. Many failed parking attempts and u-turns later we were about to give up. But the adventure muse that was looking over us whispered- nah! -yelled!, into our ears to try once more and plow through to see the arch. So we finally found a cheep parking lot with room. Of course the parking attendant insisted that because of the size of our spaceship we needed to pay for four spots. Not really caring anymore we eventually gave in and paid.

On our way back to the bus we were walking down a street and Sydney noticed a familiar looking place! It was the same restaurant that was part of the chain of restaurants that we had stopped at previously! We decided that it wouldn’t hurt to just walk in and ask. We did so and were pleasantly surprised that the manager said yes! After looking at the oil we discovered a lot of really clean oil. Score. Eli brought the bus around and started to hand pump and carry 90 gallons of oil about 50 feet to and from the bus. All in all, it was an extremely smooth and successful process. The best snatch so far.

Looking back I realized that it was only due to finding the oil from that first time that we got the nasty, poor oil that we even noticed or thought to ask this restaurant. And because of that we completely filled up with the cleanest oil we found yet. We learned then that everything works out for the best. Always, a little further down the road one realizes why something happened.

I run a worm bin and environmental cycles station in our programs. I think that this above-mentioned theme, in reality, is the fundamental teaching of this station: When life gives you lemons make lemonade. When you have trash or garbage, make compost. When you think that something is useless, turn it around and create a purpose for it. When you think these tiny, puny creatures are worthless, perhaps in fact they are what keeps the world going round. If you look at everything as part of a cycle then its infinite potential and value will be reveled to you.

When faced with an unwanted situation you can always turn things upside down and figure out a way out. Or more accuratel: be able to see the inherent goodness within it. It all depends on how you allow your eyes to look at it. Interestingly, worms don’t have eyes! They do, however, have the ability to sense light. Perhaps there is something there: They can only sense light and they do not have eyes through which to distort that light. They only see light! Sitting here in this dinner perhaps I think how perhaps I can learn this lesson from the worm: To only see light. And the current situation has indeed started that journey.

Since we broke down on the side of the road yesterday at 5 pm, countless trucks have come over offering their help. Each one got us to the next step before they had to get back on the road. Until, finally Phillip helped us for more than an hour . On top of that, the next morning he drove four of us 30 miles down the road to the nearest auto shop. We get off his truck, look across the road and se a dinner that was somehow already open. We decide to go check it out.

And that I where I find myself now: sitting here in the dinner waiting for the bus to get here and the writing this blog post; reminding myself to learn from the worms; to see the good in even this.

Rebbe Nachman, the Chassidic master of the Breslov Chassidic dynasty, teaches that one is “sent” on a journey in order to fix and increase one’s faith. To increase one’s faith in themselves, one’s faith in humanity and one’s faith in G!d. By going on a journey was is faced with situations that force one to confront his or her ideas of faith. One is forced to make decision based on the presents and absents of faith. And based on my experience its clear to me over and over agin on a journey how much this is to have faith about. It fixes my faith in myself, my faith in G!d, and my faith in humanity.

I sit here not knowing what will happen with the bus exactly but knowing and having faith that that whatever happens, it will be good.

When life gives you oil- go with it.





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