Thursday, March 29, 2012

Angels Among Us


Angel (noun): Possibly derived from the Greek word "Angelos", or "messenger".
Some of the definitions are as follows:
    1. A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, usually depicted as a winged human form in a long robe.
    2. An attendant spirit, especially a benevolent one.
    3. A kind, compassionate and brave individual.

Do you believe in angels?  Not angels with wings and a halo but real angels sent by a higher power, supernatural beings who help humans, sometimes saving them from disaster, while other times just offering comfort, or even testing us?  Well, I do and I have a real life story to tell.

It was 1960, in the North Texas town of Wichita Falls and I was 8 years old.  Though my parents took me everywhere with them, this one night was special, so they hired a baby sitter.

I don't recall much about the baby sitter, as she didn't speak much but when she did, she referred to me as "Miss".  I do remember that she was a nice lady of African heritage, who lived clear across town, on the "East Side".  In those days we still lived in a segregated world.

I don't know for sure how my parents met this lady but my mother did volunteer work, at the St. Vincent de Paul Store, near downtown Wichita Falls, where most of the regular customers were black and very poor. I recall later as a teenager, that I would go after school to the store, every Tuesday that my mother worked.  I would help her sort donations, hang clothes on hangars, price them, help 'customers' and even run the ancient cash register and adding machine.

Another thing that stands out in my memory, is how everyone, from the elderly down to most small children, were very polite, though suspicious of us 'white folk'.  I suppose the 'sitter' was a customer that agreed to stay with me, while my folks went out and had a good time.

We ourselves were not rich, by any means.  My dad was a machinist and my mother stayed home, all accept her volunteer work once a week, or to go to meetings for the Federated Missionary's Society (which later my mother was president of the chapter).  Despite modest earning on Dad's part, I am sure he paid the sitter well.

After my folks got home that evening, we all got into the car and drove across town to take the sitter home.  I was sitting in the back with the lady, who didn't speak the whole time. Well, except when we got stuck on the railroad tracks.

It was the wee hours of the morning, not a soul in sight. Everything was pitch black, except the street lights behind us, as we crossed the railroad tracks on 7th Street. The engine died on the old Oldsmobile, right at the top of the tracks.  My dad got out and raised the hood but could see nothing in the dark, so he fumbled around, checking wires as best he could.  He got back inside and tried to start the car again, to no avail. 

It was at this point, that we all realized the peril we were in. To our right (South), there was the distinct high pitched "woo woo" of a train whistle and I could just make out the distant headlight, getting bigger and brighter.  The train was coming and it wasn't stopping!  Dad yelled for us to get out of the car and though we all tried, the doors would not open!

As the train's headlight was now shining right upon us, we were trying like mad, to get out and I heard my baby sitter say, "Oh, Lord Jesus!  Save us!"

As the train whistle screamed and the headlight blinded us from the right, there was suddenly a calm, then a brilliant light from behind the car, as the whole rear end of the 4500 pound automobile was lifted up into the air and the vehicle moved forward and off the tracks, just as the train passed behind us, right where we had been stuck.

Still visibly shaken, my dad jumped from the driver's seat and approached the three huge black men, who seemed to come out of thin air, picked the rear end of the car up and saving us all.  Being the honest and generous man that my dad was, he insisted on paying our rescuers but they politely refused.

Dad turned to tell my mother that they would not accept any reward and before he could turn back to our angels of mercy, they were gone, vanishing as quickly as they came. 

Both my dad and mother looked everywhere for our rescuers but even in the huge open area of the street and railroad tracks, they were no where to be seen.

The only thing else that I recall of that night, is that the woman who sat with me in the back seat, was gone.  I don't recall taking her home but I do recall my mother telling my dad, "those were angels".

To this day, I know that we were saved by angels but that wasn't the first time my mother had dealings with such beings.

My mother has been gone a long time now, she herself a guardian from Heaven.  She watches over my children and grandchild, this I know.  But it was my mother's encounter just after the 'great depression', that stands out for me.

So many people had been hard hit by the depression and hunger was rampant and jobs were scarce.  However, my dad did have a job.  He was the best machinist in all of North Central Texas and Southern Oklahoma, or so the later write-up in the 'Times and Record News' said.

Before I was born, my mother took care of my dad's mother; doing the cooking, cleaning and general care of home and Grandma.  At the time, my mother was in her early 30s, had been valedictorian of her graduating class and in later years I grew to realize, that she was one of the most intelligent and resourceful people I have ever known.  She was not prone to "flights of fancy." 

My mother had just made a big pot of beans and cornbread.  That was a meal that would last for most of the week. And this is the story my mother related to me, which I will relate to you, just as she told it to me.

"I had just finished up in the kitchen, when I heard a knock on the front door.  The screen door was closed and an elderly gentleman was standing on the porch. 

I walked to the door, said hello and asked what he wanted.  He asked me if I had any knives or scissors he could sharpen.

I didn't have any money to pay him and I told him so but he just smiled and kept standing there. The old man had clean but old and worn clothes on. What stood out most, were his features.  He had white hair, a long white beard and the most kind and gentle face that I had ever seen. To my eyes, he was 'beautiful'.

I told him no, that I was sorry I could not pay him in money but I had just made a pot of beans...

I was about to close the door when he said that beans would be just fine!  He asked me to bring him all my knives and scissors, that he would eat when he was done.

The man sat on the edge of the porch and sharpened all the knives I brought him.  When he was finished, I took the knives inside, then handed him a large bowl of beans and a slice of cornbread, which he devoured with vigor.  He wiped the bowl clean, stood up and as he handed me the now empty bowl, he said with a sweet smile, "God bless you."

I said, "God bless you too." then turned to sit the bowl on the small table just inside the door.  When I turned back, he was gone!  I stepped out and walked to the end of the porch and looked but he was no where in sight.  I walked out into the yard and looked up and down the street, still I did not see him anywhere. 

It was at that moment I realized the old man was really an angel.

[Note:  I still have one of my mother's kitchen knives and it is still as sharp today, as it was the day the angel sharpened it.]

My mother often wondered if she had been tested that day, by an angel sent by God.  Then years later, we were all saved by beings with enormous size, strength and gentleness.

There have been many accounts of angelic-like beings, who suddenly appear, do what needs to be done, then slip away, or vanish.  I think this is a distinct possibility, just as there are living, breathing 'angels' among us, as in ordinary people doing extraordinary things, during trying times.

Whatever, or whoever these angels are, their deeds of love, kindness and compassion affect us all, in a positive light and teach us that we too, can be 'angels of mercy'. -Sunny Williams


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