Just as Tina stepped from the office building to the sidewalk, she spotted her bus pulling away from the curb and blending in with the traffic. If she hadn’t stopped to use the ladies room she would have been on time. She checked her watch and realized she was on time but the bus had come early. Now she would have to wait half an hour for the next bus or walk three blocks to catch a bus from there which would drop her off a little over a block away from where her usual bus stopped.
She started walking and felt a shiver from the cold wind that seemed to have picked up. She turned her collar up and buttoned the top button on her coat. In the middle of the second block, she spotted a man hunched down with his arms wrapped across his chest to keep warm. He looked up at her and didn’t say a word just nodded. The sadness in his eyes said it all and she shivered again but not from the cold. At the corner coffee shop, she bought a large coffee and a bagel. Before stepping back outside, she removed an envelope from her briefcase and placed a twenty dollar bill inside and sealed it. Tina backtracked to where the man was still squatting.
She paused in front of him and when he looked up, she said, “I thought you might enjoy this being as it is getting colder. It may help to keep you warm.”
She then handed him the coffee and the bag with the bagel and the envelope.
“Thank you,” he smiled weakly and took the items from her outstretched hands.
“You’re welcome,” she replied and turned and walked away. On the next block, there were two nuns in front of a small table with a sign on it that read, “Please help the poor.”
She started to walk past then stopped and reached into her pocket and pulled out the two one dollar bills she had gotten in change at the coffee shop and stuffed them into the slot in the locked box on the table.
The nuns smiled, thanked her and in unison said, “May God bless you.”
Tina turned and proceeded to the corner to wait for the bus along with a small number of other people. The nuns’ words repeated themselves in her mind and she thought about how she had stopped praying when her son Michael, not long after his father died, moved out of the house and never contacted her again. She had prayed incessantly asking God to return Michael to her to no avail. After the fourth year, with her hopes diminished, she prayed less and less until she finally prayed no more.
Turning to look back toward the nuns, Tina noticed the man she had helped holding the coffee and bagel out to someone in one of the doorways. A moment later, a small gray haired woman, Tina hadn’t noticed, stepped from the doorway and took the coffee and bag. She then reached out and touched his arm and he tenderly bent down and kissed her head. The man then moved toward the table with the box for donations for the poor and Tina watched him stuff the envelope she had given him in the slot, before turning to disappear into the crowd.
Unable to resist her curiosity, Tina hurried back to the table and asked the nuns,
“Do you know that man?”
“Do you know that man?”
Both nuns smiled and the shorter of the two answered, “Yes, he’s an angel.”
“Thank you,” was all Tina said and returned to the bus stop in time to catch the bus. On the trip home, she couldn’t help thinking about the cliché the nun had used to describe the man who had put the envelope in the box. Tina smiled. To the nuns, she imagined that everyone who made a donation was an angel.
It wasn’t until later that night when Tina was cuddled on the couch with her afghan, drinking a hot cup of coffee that the day’s events struck her. The nuns had been right. That man was an angel. Tina had bought him coffee and a bagel from loose bills she had jammed in her pocket in the morning and the twenty dollars she could well afford so the reality was that she only sacrificed what was really not a sacrifice at all.
The man, however, made the true sacrifice. He gave the coffee and bagel to a woman he felt needed it more than he and the twenty dollars which would have been enough to get a cheap bed for the night to be warm; he gave instead to those he believed were needier. She sunk a little lower and shook her head. From the time she had gotten on the bus to just a few minutes before, she had praised herself for the kindness she had shown. She had patted herself on the back. But now she realized her actions paled in comparison to the selfless generosity that man showed toward others. He gave without so much as wanting praise or a pat on the back. He gave from his heart not his wallet. He gave his all and gave it willingly.
Tina turned her head and looked toward the fireplace and spotted the small crucifix hanging above the mantel. She shivered. Maybe, just maybe, she had been in the presence of a real angel. She shrugged her shoulders, finished her coffee and went to bed.
The next morning when Tina went to work, she looked to see if she could see the man but he was nowhere in sight. The nuns at the table were different than the nuns who was there the day before. Tina’s day passed without incident and again, on the way home, she looked to see if she could spot the man with the sad eyes, but as in the morning, she failed to do so.
That night, while in her favorite spot on the couch, only this time with a glass of wine, the phone rang. She looked at the number and not recognizing it figured it would be a telemarketer.
“Hello,” she said with an attitude.
The person on the other end cleared their throat before saying, “Mom?”
Tina sat up straight. “Michael? Is it really you?”
“Can I come home?”
Tina choked back the tears in her eyes and the lump forming in her throat. “Mmmi…Michael, yes, yes, yes you can come home! Where are you?”
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” Michael answered and hung up.
Tina sprang from the couch and starting pacing. “Oh my God. Oh my God,” was all she was capable of saying at the moment.
The doorbell rang and she jumped. Tina took deep breaths trying to exhale slowly in an effort to maintain her composure as she practically ran to the door and pulled it open. Michael stood for a moment before entering the house.
As soon as the door was closed, Tina threw her arms around him and cried uncontrollably. Moments later, Michael cried with her. They remained like that for a number of minutes. Tina pulled back and studied him. He was older but he looked great. A thousand questions raced through her mind but she forced herself not to pepper him with them and not to put pressure on him to explain. He was home and that was all that mattered.
She made him a coffee and some toast with butter and grape jelly, a favorite of his when he was living at home. She sat across from him and waited patiently for him to share what he wanted to talk about.
After his second slice of toast, Michael looked at her and said, “The strangest thing happened a couple days ago. I was thinking of you and home and feeling like I wanted to be here so I got on a bus and was on my way when sometime during the trip I fell asleep and someone stole what little money I had in my duffel bag. I didn’t know it until I got to the next bus terminal and couldn’t buy a ticket.
“I figured I would just have to hitch-hike the rest of the way. I didn’t even have enough money to buy a coffee and had to ask a couple people for some change. It was rather embarrassing. While I was there, this guy came up to me and handed me an envelope and walked away. At first, I thought he was one of those Jesus freaks you always hear about lurking around the bus or train stations, but when I opened the envelope, there was a twenty dollar bill in it.”
Tina buried her face in her hands and burst out crying. Michael didn’t have to describe the man or say anymore because she knew in her heart he was the man she had given the envelope to; the one the nuns called an angel.
Michael moved to her and put his arms around her shoulders. “Mom, are you okay? Did I say something wrong?”
With tear-stained cheeks she glanced up at him and said, “No Honey, you didn’t say anything wrong at all. You said the perfect thing. Thanks to an Angel, I have my faith and you back in my home and heart again.”
August 3, 2014