Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
God has a way of allowing us to be in the right place at the right time.
I was walking down a dimly lit street late one evening when I heard muffled screams coming from behind a clump of bushes. Alarmed, I slowed down to listen and panicked when I realized that what I was hearing was the unmistakable sounds of a struggle: heavy grunting, frantic scuffling and tearing of fabric.
Only yards from where I stood, a woman was being attacked. Should I get involved? I was frightened for my own safety and cursed myself for having suddenly decided to take a new route home that night. What if I became another statistic? Shouldn't I just run to the nearest phone and call the police?
Although it seemed an eternity, the deliberations in my head had taken only seconds, but already the cries were growing weaker. I knew I had to act fast.
How could I walk away from this? No, I finally resolved, I could not turn my back on the fate of this unknown woman, even if it meant risking my own life.
I am not a brave man, nor am I athletic. I don't know where I found the moral courage and physical strength — but once I had finally resolved to help the girl, I became strangely transformed. I ran behind the bushes and pulled the assailant off the woman.
Grappling, we fell to the ground, where we wrestled for a few minutes until the attacker jumped up and escaped.
Panting hard, I scrambled upright and approached the girl, who was crouched behind a tree, sobbing.
In the darkness, could barely see her outline, but I could certainly sense her trembling shock.
Not wanting to frighten her further, I at first spoke to her from a distance.
"It's OK," I said soothingly, "The man ran away. You're safe now."
There was a long pause and then I heard the words, uttered in wonder, in amazement.
"Dad, is that you?" And then, from behind the tree, stepped my youngest daughter, Judy.
Origins: Many people have forwarded us this glurge and asked us to investigate and let them know whether it's true. We were a little daunted by the lack of detail, but we felt ourselves equal to the challenge.
We initially considered limiting our search to only those towns with "dimly lit streets," "clumps of bushes," and "trees," but we rejected this as impractical because people move around so much these days. If Judy had relocated since her ordeal, we might very well miss her. So, we contacted every woman in the USA named Judy and asked if this sounded like something any of them had ever experienced. No luck
Then we realized that Judy might have moved out of the country (or even died) since this event took place, so we tracked down every man in the USA with a daughter named Judy (thank goodness all that census information is
At this juncture Barbara pointed out to me that since the piece is undated, perhaps both Judy and her father had already passed away. So, we got busy searching through many thousands of genealogical tables and charts to find all the Judys of generations past and pose our question to their descendants. We came up empty.
When Barbara mentioned something similar that had taken place in her Canadian hometown, I suddenly realized we were being awfully America-centric. So, I took a few weeks' vacation from work, and we traveled around the globe to repeat the above steps in all the countries of the world. (American politics being what they are, however, we had to skip North Korea and Cuba. If you know anyone named Judy who lives in either of those places, please ask her to get in touch with us.) Would you believe it? Nobody named Judy, anywhere in the world, recalled something like this happening to her.
One of our volunteer staff members then called our attention to the obvious: nothing in the original glurge mentioned anything about Earth. Just because we've had limited contact with extraterrestrial civilizations doesn't mean "Judy" isn't a common name on some other planet. We beamed our query to the cosmos via radio telescope and settled in to wait out the many years it would take the message to reach some of the closest stars. Or hopes were briefly spurred when we received a tip that we should pay extra special attention to a planet orbiting Zeta Reticulon (a George
In a more serious vein, the story now traveling the Internet was lifted from a book published in 1997. In that other account, the girl's name is Katherine. The book's authors indicate the story was submitted to them by someone they refer to as Greg O'Leary, although they take pains to point out this is a pseudonym.
Last updated: 5 March 2007
Halberstam, Yitta. Small Miracles: Extraordinary Coincidences from Everyday Life. Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media Corp., 1997. ISBN 1-55850-646-2 (pp. 6-7).