This I Believe

Elan - Lafayette, California
Entered on December 12, 2006

Both my sister and my father were dying by the time I was 8 years old. She was a drug addict, and he was on the brink of heart failure. Had one more year, month, or week passed as those prior, neither would be alive today. But they continue to live simply because two strangers were willing to help them when they needed help most. They live today because they each met an angel.

I am, of course, not referring to the Michelangelean illustrations or the winged immortals depicted by religion. I believe in living, breathing angels that are only human and nothing more. What makes them different is the role they play in another individual’s life.

In this case they were my sister and my father. My sister was addicted to speed by her junior year of college. It was at a certain point, when all seemed to be collapsing around her, that she decided it was time to go home. She had a car, but no gas, she had the keys, but no money; and she had a license but no ability to drive. She was sitting in a parking lot in downtown Santa Barbara when a stranger walked up and knocked on her window asking for a ride to Lafayette. That very day he drove my sister home, called up a taxi, and she never saw him again.

So many things seem strange about such a story; why the man needed a ride to Lafayette of all places, why he was willing to drive an addict home, why he knocked on her window in the first place. But why he did these things does not matter. What does matter is that he did.

One day a man walked into my father’s office and asked him if he’d checked his blood pressure lately. Being the manager of a business and a firm adversary against solicitors, he found no reason in the man’s moral intentions. But he agreed eventually, put on the strap, only to find out that his systolic level was at a staggeringly high point. The man suggested seeing a doctor, which my dad did literally a week later. On that ordinary afternoon, the man walked out the door and out of my dad’s life forever.

It is easy, after the event, to find new meaning in the mundane, and magic in all that is ordinary. What’s difficult, if not impossible, is to see it coming beforehand. I’m not trying to tell you that either of these situations were due to divine intervention. I believe that every stranger is a guardian for another stranger. Why a man needed a ride to Lafayette of all places and was willing to drive an addict home, I do not know. Why a stranger decided to check another man’s blood pressures so randomly, I do not know. What I do know is that two human angels saved my family. This I believe.