Luck of the Irish

Early in the fall semester of sophomore year, my friend, Maura, mentioned to me that one of the Irish Lit professors was organizing a student trip to Ireland for January break. She was excited about the prospect and planned to go.  She thought I might be interested, too.

The Casey/Cronin DNA in our family tree was not particularly valued by my parents, so I did not grow up with an appreciation for or understanding of Ireland’s beautiful landscape, epic history, creative imagination, and mystical spirit. Despite my cultural ignorance, this unexpected opportunity called to me like a primal echo. Without knowing any details about the trip whatsoever, I just KNEW I had to go.

There was a problem, however.  I had no money to pay for it.  The cost for the three-week adventure was approximately $1,000 (yes, this was many, many years ago), excluding any personal spending money. Ugh.

I was a poor college kid living on a shoestring budget.  My tuition and board were paid for by two scholarships, but any discretionary funds I had were whatever I scraped together during summer waitressing and my low paying part-time campus job. I did not have an extra $1,000 lying around. And I couldn’t ask my parents for money. They were paupers, too!

I knew my dream was completely unattainable, but I also knew with every atom in my body that this was going to happen. Somehow. The window for registration was open for about a month, so there was a little time to find a way. What to do?  How can I raise these funds?  I was completely bereft of a plan.

I spent the next few days, going to classes and doing homework assignments, not trying to figure it out, just holding the desire in my heart without equivocation.

At some point a random idea popped into my mind from The Void. I heard this quiet prompting: “Ask the Foundation for an additional scholarship.”  Huh? That idea would never have occurred to me!  The Foundation awarded a set amount annually for college tuition and board. Period. The grant was never offered with the option for a recipient to come back and ask for more. To do so was unthinkable hubris! So, I immediately dismissed that inner proposition and said to myself, “No, I can’t do that.”  But the idea persisted, like a mist hovering over me, until I started to consider, why not?  What harm could it do to ask?

Without one scintilla of expectation, I sat down and typed a letter to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.  I explained the nature of the trip. That it would be educational.  That we would receive four academic credits after completing a research paper on something learned from the experience.  I may have slipped in that it was personally important to me to explore my Irish heritage.

I mailed the letter and didn’t think much more about it.  I truly didn’t expect to receive a response, let alone any money.  But much to my delight and surprise, within a week or so I received a heartfelt, supportive reply from the Foundation and a check for $500.

Wow! Well, now I HAD to go!  The Foundation clearly stipulated that the funds could only be used for the trip.  But there was still the pesky issue of that other $500.  No new idea for income readily presented itself.

On the next phone call with my mom (back in the day when we used dorm pay phones and called our parents hardly ever), she told me that in her weekly phone call with her mother, she had provided the routine status update on all the grandkids, and shared that I had an  opportunity to go to Ireland and was hopeful I would find a way to do so.

Trust me, Mom did not ASK my grandmother to help me financially! My grandmother, a frugal woman, was wealthy.  But she was never prone to showering us with money.  Other than the annual five-dollar bill that arrived inside my birthday cards, I don’t recall a time when my grandmother doled out cash.

For some inexplicable reason, this time she was moved to do so.  She must have asked Mom how much I needed, because a check for $500 showed up in my mailbox the following week.  Blessedly, it arrived just as the window for trip registration was closing.  The trip was limited to 40 students, and I was the last person to grab a slot.

To say the trip was fabulous and life-altering is an understatement.  I loved everything about it.  The land was magical.  The people were charming and delightful. The music, pubs, dance, architecture, history, language, even the weather resonated with me at the deepest soul level.  It felt like HOME.  I awakened to my ancestral heritage on that trip.  I even saw my instinctive love for potatoes and beer in a whole new light!

The ancient proverb “Where there is a will, there is a way” is a strong aphorism for a reason.  Holding an intention, with commitment and determination, refusing to allow doubt to creep in, is a powerful thing. This was a miracle for me. And I learned that, if we want something with our whole hearts, and expect it to happen, one way or another, it can, and it will.

Magic exists! We just need to believe it and trust.

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