Beyond the Barricade


Sometimes it isn’t who you know, it’s who you don’t know.

We were driving through Tarragona, Spain.  Our GPS had led us on a circuitous path through back streets, and into a semi residential construction zone.   The already narrow street had parking on both sides, so even our compact car barely had room to squeeze through.  We crept along for a while, and then we saw a barricade ahead.

It was basically a large glorified saw horse,  painted orange with some reflective patches.  It was waist high, wider than our car, and completely blocked our way forward.  There was no way to turn around.  Neither of us really knew much Spanish, but there were no signs to direct us even if we had.

My husband and I looked at each other in confusion.  Since our first “road trip” for work 2 years earlier, we had gotten used to being lost in unfamiliar places.  Erik had mastered driving in Italy (which made Spain and France seem like a leisurely Sunday drive) and I had gotten better at deciphering European signage.   When we first got the GPS, we felt unstoppable.  But the navigator didn’t recognize the newer construction yet, so we still got lost a lot.   All of the other times we’d gotten lost, there had been too many possible routes.  But this time, we couldn’t see a single way forward.

Then suddenly we saw her.  She was elderly (as in, she looked at least 80) and had a short, slight build.  When I see her in my mind’s eye, the one word that comes to mind is frail.  She looked us, and at the barricade.  Then she began to cross the street in front of the barricade, casually picking it up and carrying it as she went.  When she reached the other side of the street, she set it down and kept walking without a backward glance.

Erik and I stared at each other again, this time in total disbelief.  I don’t remember verbalizing it, but the look that passed between us said “Did you just see what I saw?”  We didn’t know if the barricade indicated that the road ahead was impassable  or not, but we decided to try it.  There were no further signs of construction after that, and our lane ended up being  clear.  The sense of peace and awe that hung in the air was palpable.  In an instant we went from being stuck to being free.

I often think about what that woman did for us.   I felt foolish when I realized that either of us could have gotten out of the car and moved it ourselves (although to this day, I’m not convinced I could have hauled that thing out of the way as effortlessly as she did) .   But the truth is, that didn’t occur to us.  We were stuck because we thought we were stuck.  We assumed that the road ahead was torn up or impassable.   But from where she stood, the barrier we saw no way around was barely a setback.

It’s like that with a lot of obstacles in life.  When you’re in the thick of it, you often don’t see the obvious solution.  Having the right connections can help, but all it takes is someone who sees beyond the problem.   Someone who can advocate for you.   Someone who can show you the truth:

you’re not really stuck.

What road block are you facing?  The key to freedom may be who you know (or don’t know) .


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