Sometimes it feels like all there is in this ‘life’ thing, is dark, roiling seas full of sucking tentacles, just waiting to pull me down into the depths.
Sometimes I’m thrumming with so much anxiety that it feels like I might explode, or that my skin might just slip right off me. Pool at my feet, leaving my nerves exposed to the always biting wind whipping around me.
Sometimes there is so much darkness masquerading as ‘truth’. Gaslights burnishing into the brains of so many people, like microscopic, mind-altering, conscience-eating monsters.
And then God…
or The Great Mystery..
However, Whoever you want to call Her.
Maybe she’s just Life.
Maybe she’s Hope…
Maybe she’s the thread to hold onto, that tugs us back to the light.
Emily Dickinson’s little bird.
Here’s the story of the little bird. The Angel I met the other day.
She was sitting in a small white car, eating A&W french fries and sipping a medium-sized root beer. She was having a car picnic all by herself.
She was wearing sunglasses because she had backed her car into the parking space to face the warmth of the sunshine streaming in through her windshield. And she had her window rolled all the way down, enjoying the slight breeze.
I remember that, because I pulled in right beside her, my closed window beside her open window.
I looked over, mentally calculating the distance between my window and hers. Calculating the risk, the danger, the chance of dying from inhaling her exhale.
I did this almost automatically, unconsciously. Calculate the Covid risk.
I hesitated a brief second before opening my door, but I needed to put air in my car tire and to do that I needed to walk past her open window.
And so I calculated the risk and opened my door.
I had a long drive ahead of me, over mountain passes and winding highways with high speeds. I needed to put air in the tire with the slow leak. The tire that feels like I do sometimes…like I’m slowly leaking energy, or willpower, or whatever it is that this year is putting me through.
I walked around to the air pump and pulled the long hose around to the driver’s side back tire. The one beside the woman with the open window, sipping her root beer and eating her fries.
She watched as I pulled the hose close to my tire, to see if it would reach. She watched me lay it down on the ground and head back to the air pump to run my credit card through the slot to charge me the $1.50 it cost to make my tire safe to drive.
But it was an old pump.
There was no credit card slot, no tap and pay. Just slots for coins to drop into.
I knew I had no coins, I hadn’t carried coins with me for months. I’d long stopped carrying my wallet with me, because I never carried cash anymore. Germs and all that.
I looked for coins anyway, the way one does even though you know there isn’t a chance in hell of finding any.
I searched all the pockets of my little purse, ran my fingers along the bottoms of the cupholders and even along the back of the glove compartment I never, ever open.
I sighed and calculated risk again. This time, the risk of driving another 45 minutes with a low-pressure tire, and walked around my car to pick up the hose to wrap it back up along the stupid air pump that needed coins to operate.
That’s when the woman spoke to me.
“Am I in your way?” she asked
“Not at all,” I replied, smiling back at her, from a safe 6 ft. distance. “It’s just that this machine needs coins and I don’t have any.”
This is when I discovered the woman was actually an Angel, who just happened to like A&W french fries and root beer.
“How much does it cost?” she asked, already pulling her purse onto her lap.
“A toonie.” It was at this point that I noticed the light that surrounded her. Maybe it was just the sun reflecting off the hood of her car, but maybe it was humanity reminding me of her goodness.
She reached her arm out of her open window and I crossed invisible threshold to take the toonie from her fingers.
“Wow, thank you!” I said to the angel, wondering if she had wings secretly tucked behind her back.
I walked back to the air pump, feeling lighter than I had in a long while.
This story goes on from here, turns out it took loonies, not toonies, and of course the angel searched her purse for a loonie as I gave her back her toonie.
I pumped up my tire as she looked on and popped another french fry into her mouth.
“Thank you again,” I said as I coiled the hose neatly back into place and walked past her window to open my door, “You’ve made my day!”
She smiled at me, like angels do. Like people who do goodness do who aren’t doing it for show, but just because doing goodness is a good thing. Like people who trust that goodness over the badness in the world.
She reminded me of the me I had lost. Or not lost, so much, as misplaced.
The me who believes in the goodness of humanity.
The me who believes in the Divinity of Love.
The Optimystical me.
There are angels walking amongst us everyday. Sometimes they’re even eating french fries and drinking root beer.
Sometimes they’re even you, when you’re kind, or compassionate, or even just truly open-minded.
Or when you’re doing goodness, just because it’s the right thing to do.
Maybe that’s what nourishes Faith. All those acts of goodness that happen just when you’ve lost the fluttering feeling of hope.
Emily Dickinson – 1830-1886
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.