I was thinking this morning on the drive in about angels. My definition of an angel may be very different from yours, then again perhaps not. I am not a religious person. I am very spiritual though. Do angels exist? To me they do. How I define this is when someone comes into your life, however briefly, and changes how you view this world and your place in it for the better.
Let me share a story with you to make my point.
Several years ago, probably about eleven years now, I was working in downtown Vancouver. Being a single mother I have often found it necessary to have two jobs to get by. At this time I worked 8:30 to 4:30 in at an Engineering office and then from 6:00 to 9:00 PM, I worked on the phones for the Knowledge Network. Fortunately they were both in very close proximity to each other. I was at my part-time position just three evenings a week.
One evening I left and began the walk back to my car. Walking toward me in the other direction was a tall young man who was very thin. When he got about three feet away from me, he stopped.
“Excuse me,” he said, “I don’t want to alarm you or frighten you in any way, but I just wanted to ask you a question.”
I smiled at the young man. He didn’t look very well, actually he looked quite sick. “You haven’t frightened me at all. What did you want to ask me?”
He proceeded to explain that he was HIV positive and that he hadn’t eaten anything that day and could I possibly spare a few dollars for food. I don’t carry cash as a rule. I explained this to him and he thanked me for my time and went to move past me.
“Why don’t we walk up to Granville St. I can buy you something to eat up there with my debit card.” I offered.
He smiled and accepted. We turned and began to walk back and I don’t know what it was about him but I reached out and took his hand. We walked silently up to Granville Street like that. I found a Donair place and bought him a meal and a coffee. I scraped around the bottom of my purse for some loose change and managed four dollars and some change. Then I reached out and gave him a big hug and told him to take care. He started to sob then and he held me so tightly and I felt the tears rising up in my eyes as well.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “Nobody has touched me like this in over a year. Thank you.”
We stood in that embrace for about another five minutes or so and I was just so overwhelmed. He was in a bad way and I knew in my heart of hearts that he didn’t have long in this world. He was an educated, well mannered young man who had made a bad choice one night that ultimately would cost him his life. When we parted I was quite emotional. I thought of all the bad choices I have made in my life, God knows there have been more than I care remember. The choices that we make though are seldom driven by malice and ill intent.
All the rather brow raising things I got myself into were the result of just who I was at that time. I was a young woman so completely misguided and without an iota of self-worth with absolutely no confidence.
Still, when I have relayed this story to people they will say to me. “You were his angel.” To this I just smile and say “No, he was mine.”
He ignited my compassion, my empathy. He reminded me that we are only human and that we all make mistakes. He reminded how cruel we can be to each other, particularly in someone’s time of need. After meeting him that night I resolved to try, however small, to make a difference. I will buy a sandwich or a coffee for someone who is on the street. Many of them have mental health issues and I don’t think I will ever get used to the idea that we just let people who are not well fend for themselves in such a cold and forbidding manner.
Now I am looking at ways, big ways to make a difference in people’s lives. And I hope I am successful. I hope that I can bring some measure of comfort and hope to those who so desperately need it.
Angels come to us in many forms. They direct us so subtly toward a kinder and gentler being and remind us of our connection to each other. I have thought of him often over the years. His impact on my consciousness was immediate. He touched my life quite powerfully that evening and I didn’t even know his name. That half hour that I spent with him shifted my view from just feeling really bad for people, to trying to help in some small way to now wanting to have a bigger impact.
In any case I will head off to work now. I am feeling very reflective at the memory of that night. Perhaps in some strange way I made a promise to him in our exchange that I didn’t even realize I had made. Perhaps in that moment he showed me a really good side of self that I needed to see. He has my blessing.