Rereading the Christmas account of the Annunciation, the meeting of Mary and the angel Gabriel this morning, I wondered what I often wonder at this story: Have I ever seen an angel? Maybe . . . but I can’t be absolutely sure.
“And the angel said unto her . . .”
“. . . You and your little girl need to leave here right now!”
It was years ago in Florida. I was driving my “little girl,” my eight-year old niece, Melissa, to the Miami airport after her visit with pre-children Steve and me. Interstate 95 was busy, as it is the main artery for serious, not touristy-take-your-time-and-enjoy-the-view, drivers on Florida’s east coast. Suddenly, I saw it on the road. Running across my lane was a small black puppy. “Oh, God!” My prayer and my heart shot towards heaven as I swerved, but I was hemmed in my lane by other speeding drivers.
Thunk! A sickening sound. I didn’t run over it, but I hit it. I definitely hit it.
Trembling, I dodged traffic and pulled over to the side. I ran through traffic to pick up the poor little thing. Back at the shoulder a car had pulled up behind me. It was a white Cadillac with fins, once a luxury car, but by then a dinosaur from the 60’s. The driver got out—a blond Fonzie in a white t-shirt, rolled at the sleeves. Hanging on a long chain around his neck was a collection of armed-service dog tags. He pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head and reached for the puppy. It was still alive. Not bleeding, but hurt and crying.
Now, I, too, was crying. This fellow traveler looked directly at me and spoke with great authority. “This was an accident. Whoever owns this puppy isn’t taking very good care of it, but that’s not the way the people in this neighborhood will see it. If they are looking for something to be mad about, this could go bad for you. You and your little girl need to leave here right now. I will take care of this animal. I’ve got it! Go now!”
Inner city tensions were very high those days in Florida. Even though I knew that, leaving was exactly what I wouldn’t have done without his intervention. I would have gone into the neighborhood trying to find the puppy’s owners. And in so doing, I may have put both myself and my niece at great risk.
I drove off watching in my rear view mirror. The man was walking to his Caddy with the puppy. I wish I knew what happened after that. He was kind. I believe he got help for the poor little thing.
I’ve often thought back on that incident and, though I can’t say for sure, I have considered that I may have had an angel watching over me. Haven’t seen him since, but maybe some of you have. You’ll know him if he shows up out-of-the-blue in your life; white Caddy with tail wings; rolled up t-shirt, dog tags, super protective and take charge, good with animals and frightened women.
If he helps you someday, say, changing your flat tire on a dark and isolated highway some night, or pulling you out of your car that has become a flaming wreckage, or giving you directions when you are lost and then driving ahead just to make sure you arrive safely, will you remember me? Oh, and if he tells you that you are highly favored, prepare yourself for a big job . . . like birthing and raising and letting go of the Son of God. God is preparing to bless the whole world through you.
So, give him this message. Tell him Valerie Bell has managed to live to a mature age and that she says, “Hi and thank you very much and she knows who you are.”
Then remember this particularly. “And the angel said unto her, ‘Do not be afraid.”
And that’s what he would say to all of us. “I’ve got it! Do not be afraid!”