If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.
– Toni Morrison
A few years ago, I was living in Paris and part of a tremendous community of African-American expatriate women. I was having a long, cold, lonesome winter until these women brought me into their warm and vibrant circle with delicious potlucks, soul nurturing conversations, Secret Paris outings and translations of nuanced French culture and people.
The women were between 18 and 72 years old, had lived in Paris anywhere from 6 months to 35 years, were lesbian, straight and bisexual and all artists in one form or another. There was an astrologer, an African-American cultural archivist, a few writers and several singers.
One of the singers was Manda Djinn. At 72 she was the eldest of the group and had lived in Paris the longest. She was radiantly beautiful, wise, gentle and always equipped with an insightful story.
Here’s one of my favorites:
Several years after moving to Paris from Harlem, Manda was walking down the street and passed a group of young, stylish, Black women outside of a café speaking English with American accents. While Black women in Paris isn’t a startling sight, most are from Francophone Africa or Caribbean. Upon hearing accents similar to hers, something in Manda’s gut told her to introduce herself.
Turns out, they were a Baltimore-based singing group, traveling through Europe on a tour. They had just been in Paris a day and were preparing to perform that evening.
‘I have a sister in Baltimore,’ Manda shared. ‘I’ve never met her but maybe you all know her?’
Manda told them her name.
‘Actually, we do know your sister,’ the singers replied.
‘Imagine that!’ Manda thought. ‘Small world indeed.’
‘Not only do we know her,’ they continued, ‘She’s in Paris.’
‘You’re kidding!’ Manda exclaimed. Startled by the chance.
‘As a matter of fact, she’s inside sitting at the bar right now.’
As you can imagine, all kinds of hooping, hollerin’ and disbelief ensued.
Manda rushed inside to find her long-lost sister sitting at the bar, innocently sipping a cappuccino.
This, my friend, is not an act of luck, chance or coincidence. It is a miracle. And miracles like this happen everyday—if we’re open to experiencing them.
What if against her better judgment, Manda delayed leaving the house by just a few minutes and barely missed hearing those ladies’ voices?
What if she’d decided to take a different route even though she had a haunting feeling about which way she should really go.
What if upon hearing their accents, she dismissed her hunch to say ‘hi’ and just wrote them off with “stranger danger”?
What if after introducing herself, Manda assumed that they probably didn’t know her sister and decided not to ask?’
How many times do you ignore that still small voice because you want facts, proof or a guarantee before you take a risk?
Miracles don’t lie in having all the answers. They happen when we trust our gut, do our best and surrender the details to divine serendipity.
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Do not be distracted by your mind’s hunger for answers. You are innately plugged in to an infinitely more knowledgeable system that speaks through your gut feelings, intuition and hunches.
Listen to it with a keen and open heart and watch the miracles unfold.
After a full life of love, music, and friendship, Manda passed away last month.
This article is dedicated to her.
Below is a video of Manda performing in Paris last year.