Surrounded by Angels

November 24, 2014 at 2:35 am

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home after dropping off my kids at school, and I saw a short older woman walking on the sidewalk coming toward us. She looked kind of like this. As we came closer to her, she and I made eye contact through my windshield, and something happened. It was like our souls connected somehow. But I had to make a turn onto our street, so it didn’t last long. I don’t usually have experiences like that when passing strangers in the street, so I was intrigued and wondered about it, but I also sort of forgot about it.

Until the next day. As I was walking my kindergartner into his classroom in the morning, we turned a corner and there was the same woman right in front of me again. We made eye contact (again). She smiled like she recognized me and said, “Hello.” I smiled back and said, “Hello,” and then rushed my son into his classroom. But, again, it felt like our souls had connected somehow.

A few days later I was telling a friend about these unusual encounters. In response, she said, “I bet she was an angel.” The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but I kind of wondered if she might be right. This woman definitely looked mortal to me, but (angel or not) I had a feeling we would cross paths again. I told my husband about these incidents and said, “What if we run into each other at the park or something? What do you say to someone who might be an angel?” I spent a lot of time pondering what the right words would be and feeling kind of nervous and excited about it.

So, a few days ago, after my husband got home from work, I felt like I needed to go for a walk alone. I was fighting to keep some mild anxiety at bay and feeling a bit down, but walks usually help. I started down a familiar path, but a few minutes later I felt like I should turn and go a completely different way than I had planned. Meanwhile, I was also focused on my phone, texting a few struggling friends to check on them. So I walked down a street I don’t usually walk down and then turned onto a busier street and headed south, still focused on my phone. Eventually I looked up. And there she was walking toward me. My heart started pounding, I put down my phone. Here goes, I thought.

As we approached each other, both of us smiled and slowed down. We said hello. Then she asked, in halting English, if I knew the time. I looked at my phone and answered her. Then we stared into each other’s eyes, smiling. She told me, struggling to find the English words, that she was from India. We exchanged a few more bits of information about each other (names, family, etc), often rephrasing to work through the language barrier. Meanwhile we just kept smiling and staring into each other’s eyes. I kept having an urge to hug her, something else I don’t usually feel toward people I’ve only just met. Love was pouring from us. Periodically we leaned or stepped closer to each other, and she would touch my arm tenderly, as if she yearned to hug me too. After a few minutes of this, we said good-bye and continued walking our separate ways.

Just twenty minutes earlier, I had been struggling to feel joy, weighed down by the bit of anxiety festering below the surface of my calm. But as I walked away from my beautiful new friend, my heart was soaring and overflowing with joy. Our conversation had shifted everything inside of me and blasted away the gloom. I went over the experience in my mind repeatedly for the next day or two, wondering what it all meant.

I don’t know if she was an angel. But looking into her eyes, talking to her, having her hand on my arm, it changed me. In some amazing, awesomely simple way, our brief encounters rearranged something inside of me… healed me.

In the end, I have decided that it doesn’t really matter whether my friend was an angel or not. I realized that what mattered was that I believed she could be. When I was seventeen, I first encountered C.S. Lewis’s famous words: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal” (The Weight of Glory). But it wasn’t until a few days ago that I finally fully grasped the implications of his words and how powerful this shift could be.

If I hadn’t believed this woman might have been an angel, I probably would have continued looking at my phone, texting, and would have passed by her, missing our beautiful exchange. Instead, I talked to an angel and it totally made my day. What if I talked to “angels” every day? What if I approached every stranger I passed on the street with the same amount of excitement and awe in which I had approached this woman? What if I looked into everyone’s eyes as though they were radiant beings of light? What if I oozed love for every person as though some part of us knew each other from heaven? It would change everything. It would change me.

When I gave birth to my fourth baby, my husband gave me a blessing. I wrote about it in my book The Gift of Giving Life. In that blessing, he told me: “You are surrounded by angels.” It was beautiful. I believe we are always surrounded by angels, especially as we bring children into mortality at birth. But that phrase–“surrounded by angels”–has now become something even more beautiful to me. It is a reminder that my heart can soar with joy and love every day when I look for “angels” everywhere.

surrounded by angels