God at the Rodeo

Shuffling through my old mental files, I pulled one that comes back to me from time to time. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had as a human with other humans on this earth.

I think it was 2007 when I first attended the Houston Rodeo. The company I work for had four tickets that were not assigned to anyone for customer entertainment, so they had a drawing at the office for them and my name was pulled. The artist performing was Martina McBride. I think it was a Saturday afternoon, and my daughter, Naomi who was turning 13 that year, came with me while my then-husband and 14-year-old son opted out. 

We arrived at NRG Stadium, and it took a while to make our way to the entrance after parking. It was busy, being a weekend, and before we got in, an older couple stopped us to ask if we knew how they could purchase tickets. As it happened, I had the two that we weren’t using and said they could have them. They were so grateful and tried to pay me for them, but I refused. Then we told them to enjoy, that we’d see them later, and went our way.  

After checking out the livestock and other exhibits, we headed into the actual stadium for the rodeo to be followed by the concert. Excited and charmed by the guys and gals walking around in cowboy boots, jeans, shirts and hats, we happily made our way to our seats. A little while later, the couple we gave the tickets to also showed up. We introduced ourselves this time and started chatting while waiting for the event to get underway.

I wish I could remember their names. They were in town from Dallas because the wife was undergoing cancer treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. They had just started making regular trips for her treatment and decided they would see what the big deal was about the rodeo in Houston while they were here. We talked with them about the usual things. Work, family and general life stuff. They were very sweet and engaging, and Naomi and I were quite happy to be in their company.

The rodeo was exciting, and we pointed, laughed and gasped together with these two strangers who had become like temporary family members to us. Afterward, the rodeo staff got to work clearing the field and rolling in the giant stage pieces to start the concert. Martina McBride is a country singer with a great big voice that comes from a little pixie body. She sings a lot of big, emotional ballads. The sincerity in her voice is undeniable and her tone is so strong, it’s hard not to be moved.

We had enjoyed the first couple of songs, clapped and cheered, and then Martina began her song “Anyway,” one of the big, sweeping ballads. As always, her voice was beautiful, pure, and her pitch was perfect. The monitors started flashing handwritten signs during the song, “Better pay for teachers,” “End child hunger,” “Better care for the elderly.” I think it might be helpful to provide the chorus of the song here to better help illustrate the message: 

God is great
But sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray
It doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway

It was during a powerful round of this chorus that the words flashed on the screen: “Find a cure for cancer.”

We and our new family members immediately reached out for each other and shared an embrace or hand squeeze, depending on our respective positions. We all had tears streaming down our cheeks. The moment was so big and meaningful, it still moves me to tears today. We swayed together through the rest of the song. When the show was over, we said goodbye, promised to keep each other in prayers, hugged each other and went our separate ways.

I don’t know how life turned out for them after that day. We never saw them again. All I know is that it felt like the Universe put us together so Naomi and I could be there for them at that time and maybe to remind us that we are all connected and that we need each other. Every one of us.