In 1928 it was a long train ride from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia to my home in Rockford, Ill. Why had I left that good university and given up a four year scholarship?
Unable to answer that question, I felt helpless, uncertain, anxious. I simply didn’t know why I had left. Was it lack of confidence in my ability to make the grade in a university where the academic standards were very high? Was I simply not mature enough to compete with sophisticated young men educated in prep schools? Was I blinded by home sickness?
I had naively thought my problems would be solved when I returned home, but they remained, now larger than ever. After all, I had given up a scholarship without which I couldn’t attend college at all.
Getting a job was my most immediate problem. My father, just emerging from a failed business venture, couldn’t help me. My parents were supportive but they too couldn’t understand my sudden departure from university.
I began looking for work, knowing I would have to take anything I could get. Anything I could get was just what I got: a job driving a huge truck for the Sword Brothers Electrical Company, lifting heavy cartons of electrical equipment, getting up at five o’clock in the morning, afraid of the truck and weary each night from loading and unloading freight at railroad depots scattered throughout the city.
Weeks went by. My hometown friends were safely tucked away in Midwestern colleges and universities while I faced a bleak future. Would I have to pay for immature and impulsive behavior — my lack of good sense — for the rest of my life?
One day, exhausted from an unusually heavy work load, I was driving the truck back to the company’s headquarters when i ran through a railroad crossing barrier, knocked the wooden crossbars into kindling and damaged the truck. The train came through at high speed, missing me by seconds.
I was promptly fired from the job. Feeling even more beaten and discouraged than before, I went home, spent a sleepless night wondering what I would do and got up in the morning to face another day of confusion and anxiety. For some reason I’ll never be able to explain, I decided to walk out into the country beyond the city.
I found myself walking on a cloudy day, past clusters of woodland, open fields and farmhouses. I had never walked in this direction before. It all seemed strange and unfamiliar. Suddenly I was overcome by a peculiar weakness. My legs felt like rubber. I was shaking and terribly frightened. Ahead of me was a field of open land toward which I was irresistibly drawn — as if by a powerful magnet.
When I got there, I stumbled and lay stretched out on the tall, soft grass. I looked up at the gray threatening sky. I closed my eyes and lay motionless but awake.
Then I heard a voice from somewhere in the field, a voice I had never heard before. When I opened my eyes to see who was calling, I saw no one, just an empty field.
At first I could not make out what the voice was saying. Soon, however, it was speaking clearly, as if right next to me. Yet I was the only person there. The voice said, “You must return to the university. It is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The way will be open for you to return to the university. In a few days, perhaps more, you will be contacted by a member of the university staff. You will retain your scholarship.”
The voice stopped abruptly.
I was sure it had been real, that I had heard distinctly the words spoken in an authoritative, commanding tone. As soon as it ceased speaking, the weakness that had caused me to stumble and lie in the field was gone.
I walked slowly back to the city. I said nothing to my parents who I feared would think I was mentally Ill.
Three days passed. I sleepwalked through the daylight hours and tossed and turned during the sleepless nights. On the fourth day I received a letter from the university. It was from the director of admissions, A.G. Miller. I had never met this man; in fact, another person in his office had handled my application for admission and notified me that I had been accepted by the university.
The letter, whose contents are etched indelibly in my mind, was brief. It said:
“You may think it is odd that I am writing to you. We have never met, yet I know that you, like 25 other young men, left the university for various reasons during the first semester of their freshman year. I don’t know just how to say this, but as I looked at the list of 25 whom I had no intention of contacting, I felt a strange, almost compelling force moing me to put aside everything else and contact you.
Don’t ask me what kind of force this was that moved me to write to you. I only know it was something I have never experienced before. This may sound foolish but it was like a voice speaking to me, directing me what to do. Hence this letter. I have talked to the chairman of the scholarship committee and your scholarship is here waiting for you.
I urge you, since I seem to be compelled for no reason I can account for, that you return to the university for the second semester. This may be, probably is, something that will profoundly affect your whole life.”
I was overjoyed. I did go back to the university and through a great deal of work was able to graduate four years later. When I think of this, the voice in the field and the letter from the director of admissions, I recall the words of Robert Frost, who wrote in his poem “The Road Not Taken, ” “Two roads diverged in a wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Indeed I had taken a road less traveled It had led me to a field where I heard a voice whose prophecy somehow carried to a man who felt a strange, inexplicable compulsion to write me, one name on a list of 25 young men who had left the university that first semester.
The voice in the field was no illusion, nor was everything that followed. All I know is that in some way, through a strange and mysterious agency, my life was changed and I was saved from the consequences of a disastrous decision.
A true account, by Lamoine E. Boyle