Rapt attention

Saturday, April 6, 2024


It is a story I have often considered and thought about. 

A poor cab driver from Pakistan, Ihsan Khan, has a dream, is given the winning lottery numbers in a vision.

He goes back to his native village just in time to save his compatriots after a massive earthquake.

He ultimately bankrolled the region's earthquake recovery.

Most of his life, Khan seemed to be running as far as possible from Pakistan and poverty. At about 21, he moved first to the Chicago area, and after marriage, a son and a divorce, to Washington. He lost touch for years with his Pakistan family, who thought he was dead. Eventually he came back home. He married a Batagram woman. But he stayed in Pakistan only a month here, a month there. Always, he returned to D.C., where he drove a cab, making about $3,000 a month.

The dream came to him in the early 1990s — a “beautiful” dream, one with diamonds and rubies and Khan speaking to a crowded room of “way too many people.” Then the numbers popped up: 2-4-6-17-25-31.

Khan says he played those numbers for years. In November 2001, with no. 31, he hit a $55.2 million Powerball jackpot. Khan chose a lump-sum award of $32,499,939.24, which after taxes worked out to about $18 million.

He gave one last cab ride — free — before walking away from his job. He bought a million-dollar home in Virginia and a Mercedes-Benz. He started an education foundation named after his late mother. And then he moved home and was elected mayor.

The earthquake hit as he walked through the cemetery. He felt the ground shake, saw cracks snake up the buildings. “I saw houses to the right and left, falling down,” he said. People crawled out from under the rubble, crying, yelling, blood running down their faces. “Some dying before me,” he recalled. Since then, he has dealt with the survivors and the wreckage. He works out of a white tent, in the shadow of the damaged district office. A phone line has been strung into the tent. Khan sits behind a walnut desk propped up on bricks...

I like to bag on religion and faith but there are times that events occur that are way beyond any semblance of rationality, like the story of the good cab driver, who ended up at just the right place at the right time.

I heard another story yesterday that gave me pause in regards to my religious cynicism. A couple came to the shop yesterday that have been friends and clients for about thirty years. Haven't seen them for a long time. They are both very intelligent and he is a Pentecostal minister, with a church in Vista for as long as I have known him. Their daughter also shares the pulpit with him.

Forty six years ago Janice and Roger were living in North Park. At midnight one day in September Janice woke up with an ominous portent of doom and got a particular urge that she fought with initially, thinking that people would consider her crazy.

She didn't want to wake Roger but she got a neighbor and told her that they needed to go out and pray for every house and person on their block.

They did so, stopping in front of every home and uttering a prayer for love and protection.

A week later PSA flight 182 came down on the next block, one of the worst tragedies in San Diego history, ultimately killing 144 people.

How did she know that the block was in danger? What convinced her to go out in the middle of the night to pray for her neighbors in her pajamas?

You can tell me that a blind dog sometimes finds a bone or a broken clock is right twice a day or any number of sophist points to deny the incredible vision that Khan the cabdriver or my friend Janice experienced but I have a different explanation.

They are tuned in to a higher power or super intelligence that defies rational thought.

I need to remember these stories when I am so quick to belittle or condemn people of faith. Because I never got the winning lottery numbers in a dream, I will tell you that.

I learned something.

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