I have always been outgoing, I suppose. I’m the person who likes to chat in the checkout line at the grocery store. And nine times out of ten, people respond positively. I can handle the rest, those who don’t “get” me. But in all honesty, making small talk with random strangers has taken on a different meaning in recent months: it has allowed me to encounter angels. And for that I am grateful.
When I was newly diagnosed, reeling from the news that was to change my life forever, I decided that a pretty caftan was just what I needed to hide the belly bulge from malignant fluid that had taken up residence in my abdomen. So off to the store I went in search of the perfect garment to lift my spirits. As I stood in front of the mirror, holding a particularly colorful one up for inspection, a woman approached me.
“That’s pretty,” she said, “and it will be so comfortable.”
“I think so, too,” I responded. “I think I am going to get it.”
She smiled. “Good. And I will be praying for you.”
I stood in stunned silence as she walked away. How did she know that I was so desperately in need of prayer?
A few weeks later, after my second chemo infusion, I stopped at a store on the way home to look for a top that allowed easy access to my port. As I pawed through the racks, an older woman moved beside me, to begin her own search. I think I made some offhanded comment about not being able to find things that don’t look they should be worn by somebody fifteen years old. She laughed and then handed me the most beautiful blouse.
“Here,” she said, “This suits you.”
I looked at the price tag. It was on sale. Crazy cheap. ”Wow,” I said. “It’s amazing. Thanks.”
“Would you like for me to pray for you?” she asked.
I nodded, trying to process how she could know that it is exactly what I needed….more than the blouse. She placed her hand on my shoulder and began to speak, claiming a healing in Our Savior’s name. My eyes were closed, but I am certain that people stared, unaccustomed to such a public display of faith. There was something powerful in that moment. I believed in her words offered on my behalf. And I walked away from that chance meeting enveloped with a sense of peace, the kind that passes all understanding.
A week before my debulking surgery, a bought a nightgown to take with me to the hospital. The lady who checked me out complimented me on my choice.
“Looks comfy and feels soft,” she said.
“Thanks,” I responded. “Having surgery so it is just what I need.”
She paused and took my hand in hers. “Then, I will pray for you.”
I smiled. “I would appreciate it.”
And a few days ago, when I returned to that same store, she approached me. “I have been looking for you, hoping that you would come back in. How is your health? You have been in my prayers.”
I thanked her for remembering me and assured her that I was doing well. But once again, I was struck by the compassion of strangers.
I could recount at least two more such experiences, including one, from a woman whom I am convinced was sent by the Almighty Himself, as she told me in the dress aisle that I was surrounded by the Holy Spirit and that I would be healed.
My angels hang out in the stores. What can I say? I like to shop. And when I think about it, I chuckle at the irony of the term "retail therapy." My encounters give the concept a whole new meaning, right? But it also demonstrates something larger, I think.
It was Plato who said that we are born whole but need each other to become complete. I have thought about that idea even more as spring approaches. A seed is planted, but must receive the sun and the rain in order to grow. And when the flower opens, stretching its petals in all of its glory, it waits to be pollinated to become what it was truly meant to be. In that same way, all of us carry something iinside, which seeks to express itself, a longing to connect to other souls in the universe in an authentic way. I think perhaps we have lost sight of that, forgotten that we are linked together as children of God, and that as we uphold and support each other, see each other through the difficult times, we become what we are meant to be as well. For we are our brother’s keeper, even when we don’t agree or particularly like him. So instead of starting a pillow fight, we must move past the differences in order to recognize what we share.
Most importantly, we must learn to be kind to each other. Caring allows us to grow, to feel alive. It is a part of our spiritual DNA. But, in order for this to happen, we are expected to keep our hearts open to the possibilities of what we may discover from such experiences. We must learn to receive as well.
And there is the lesson for us all.
I am filled with gratitude when I think of these chance encounters with mere mortals most definitely disguised as angels. It reminds me that kindness binds us, allows us to see our human connection. And praying for each other is the ultimate in thoughtful gifts.
There is a line from a Tennyson poem which reads, "Our echoes roll from soul to soul." It may sound like one of those riddles in verse, but it is actually, a simple observation about life. We have a profound impact upon each other. How we treat those we meet will, in fact, affect how they, in turn, regard the people they subsequently encounter. There is a domino affect at work here as we navigate the game of life.
Yes, this journey is difficult, but there have been some amazing and unexpected surprises along the way. The blessings are boundless, comforting gifts from God. I can't wait to see what awaits me around the bend. I promise to share.