When I lived in Eastern Europe, all of us single women missionaries shared a secret. We’d tell each other stories involving this secret. If we had to do something scary and alone, such as cross an unfriendly border carrying contraband materials or travel to a train station in a seedy part of the city at night, invariably, someone came to our aid, just as we needed it.
Often, a nice, strong young man would appear, out of nowhere. He’d lift our baggage, heavy with materials for the national ministry, or stand with us as the border guards approached.
I’ll never forget a clean-shaven American Marine appearing once when my train crossed into Serbia during the Bosnian War. I had to exit the train to talk to customs inside a darkened building. I was terrified. But my Marine walked beside me. He calmed my fears.
And then he left. Granted, Marines did enter Serbia to work at the embassy. But here’s the thing. All the single women agreed that these helpful guys would disappear as soon as their job of helping us was finished.
We called them our angels.
Maybe they were just courteous, neighborly people who came along just at the right moment. I don’t know if they were really angels and I don’t intend to debate the theology of it.
All I know is I was grateful. And I felt certain that, somehow, God orchestrated it.
When Freddy Rogers saw something scary as a boy, long before becoming known to the world as Mr. Rogers, his mother would tell him to “look for the helpers.”
Yesterday, I looked for the helpers and I found one.
Yesterday, my father had cataract surgery. Not that big a deal, you may say, except that everything’s a big deal when you’re in your late eighties, legally blind, legally deaf, and unable to walk well after a stroke.
The surgery went well and the hour-long drive from the hospital was uneventful. Then we faced the biggest challenge: getting him from the car into the apartment. My father fell. Again. He’s fallen a lot lately, always scraping more thin skin off the same arm, bleeding as only someone on blood thinners can do.
It was more than my mother and I could handle.
That’s when he appeared, out of nowhere. A friendly young man got him upright and steady in his walker. And then he left.
Before I could say, “Who was that masked man? I didn’t have a chance to thank him,” my mother said something that took me back to my former life in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps the fact that my heart has been homesick for Europe all day–ever since I saw images of Notre Dame burning–inclined my thoughts travel back to that continent I love. Whatever the reason, I remembered the angels.
She said, “Every time he falls down, a nice, young guy comes along to help just when we need it. Every time.”
I know we live in the South, where people are more apt to help, especially when it comes to the elderly. But still.
Angel? Or helper?
Whichever he was, we needed help and God sent him to help us. And we’re grateful.