I met an angel in a hardware store the other day. His name was Walt, and he caught me by surprise.
A cool afternoon in late fall, I was busy making my rounds in Orchard Supply Company, my tote bag on arm, my iPad in my left hand. I see a short man with little round glasses and a mustache and ask him my usual questions: “How much do you spend on electricity? Have you considered solar power before?”
He looks past me, and I can tell he’s lost in thought. He says, "I just want to let you know that I admire you. You got up this morning, brushed your teeth, and came to work. You probably don't like this job, but you do it anyway."
I was surprised and a bit taken aback at his sincerity and insight! He went on to say, "One day, maybe you'll be the CEO of this company." Then he began to tell me about his life's work. He explained that by trade he was a mechanical engineer, but his real calling was in counseling people with alcohol, drug, and other forms of addictions. He said he worked for Al-Anon, the resource for family members of those struggling with addictions.
I told him that solar sales was my profession, but that I was also a writer, and that was my calling. I pulled out my poetry book, Tasty Little Samples from my bag and showed it to him.
He smiled. He then proceeded to tell me about how much he liked to read, and how he had some tidbits of wisdom for me. He told me about a book called The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. He said that it was one of the best books ever written and that I should read it.
Then, he asked me what I thought it was about. I said, "Well, I think of that verse from the Bible that goes: But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." And also that quote from the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, "All know the way; few actually walk it."
He said, "yes... you're onto it." And proceeded to explain another book, The Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell, and ask me what I thought it was about.
I said, "well, it's about going through obstacles in life in order to find your destiny."
He said, "Yes, that's also true. Did you know? You’re on the heroes journey right now. You're the hero of your own story."
He then paused to ask me another question. He said, "why do you think humans are put on this planet in the first place?" I said, "I'm not sure."
He said, "do you know that the word angel means messenger in Greek? We're all messengers sent from above. We are on this earth to help people find the way, to help them discover where they came from; to help them discover their own divinity."
I was beginning to feel oddly light-headed. I had to hold steady to keep myself from falling over.
He said, "the most amazing feeling in the world is when you show one of those poor kids a way out of their own hell--the hell of the house they live in, where everyone is in their own torment created in their minds."
I said "yes, many of my students in this book wrote about their own life tragedies. One girl lost her baby brother, a teenage boy lost his sister--barely eighteen--to suicide. This book could be one of the only outlets they have to express themselves this openly", I explained.
This philosophical stranger went on to tell me of another book, entitled The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. He told me it was next to Shakespeare in terms of greatest works of poetry ever written.
I said I was sorry I'd never read it.
The stranger described the prophet and how he spoke of love and marriage.
He explained that one should never be in a relationship with a person unless they are working on bettering themselves every day. He said "otherwise, it's just not worth it."
We talked about one of my screenplays, and he told me to trust that the questions I had would be answered. He understood that my job was to help bring truth and light to people who are suffering.
He shook my hand, gave me a little daily meditation to keep in my wallet and share with someone in need.
This is the meditation:
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. -- Saint Theresa
Learning to detach may be the most demanding and difficult part of the program. Detachment means being filled with closeness and love toward someone, yet knowing we cannot fix or protect that person. It means we can be in emotional contact but don't have to react to someone else's issues. We respond from our own center with what is fitting for us. Being detached means we allow others to be in the hands of God because we cannot live their lives for them. Detachment gives us an inner calm, an acceptance of our limits, and the freedom to live our own lives with integrity.
Detachment is a skill in living, and like other skills, we can practice it. Gradually, it becomes a natural response. True detachment takes root and grows within us over a period of time as we deepen our relationship with the Steps and with our Higher Power.
Today, I turn to God as my eternal rock for strength in learning to become detached.
I'm sharing this story with you, so you will remember your own divinity and to take that truth and pass the light and love to other souls who are suffering in their human condition.
We're all fallen angels who need reminding of where we came from. It's our calling to help others do the same.
That morning, May 12, Mary Jane washed her hands in the kitchen sink and looked out the window observing the sun and calculating the temperature. She put on her walking shoes with shaking hands and her Walkmen and headphones with the same precision and purposefulness she'd done for the past 12 years since living in Southern California. Today, she was listening to Saint Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Tomorrow, would be the gospel of Matthew—Sermon on The Mount.
She walked out into that morning, the sun shining on her like melon cream, as a gentle breeze lightly pulled at her hair, cooling her skin. Her face gave off an expression of sadness; apathy. She headed down to the boardwalk and looked for Bob. She knew he wouldn't be there today, but something told her to keep looking and he'd show. It was the first day of the county fair and the workmen were setting up the sellers booths with fine fresh produce squeezed from the Pacific sea, great mother to us all.
Mary Jane picked a bench where a seagull sat and immediately flew away when she approached with that same quiet patience she always had, not ever wanting to disturb any living thing. She'd known Bob for eight years. Bob was a former Naval officer at Port Hueneme. He'd done two tours and come back with a drinking problem. His wife left him. He never married again. He was funny and charming. Bob had a real nice sense of humor and took to Mary Jane quickly. They were bingo buddies at the adult community center. She was good with predicting people, and he was a numbers man. They were something else together—competitive and seemed to win every week, but knew how to take it graciously like most competitive people don't know how to do. They would just laugh and get the whole room rolling so hard on one of his jokes. He liked to tell stories. Mary Jane sat herself upon the bench and looked serenely out over the sea.
It was approaching ten in the morning, and she had just completed the second letter to the Ephesians when she was startled out of her daydream by a soft whimper coming from below the boardwalk. She stiffened up and listened. The sound persisted. She got up from her seat and leaned over the railing. Below, a small dog of whitish fur stained yellow and brown was panting furiously and looked to be injured. She approached the animal with reservation.
The dog looked up at her with small beady black eyes hidden behind a shaggy tuft of hair. He whimpered softly. She bent down slowly and extended a hand. He sniffed it, curiously, then gave up in an expression of sadness, dropping his head between his front paws. She extended her hand again, this time to stroke his matted coat, accidentally touched his left leg and the dog gave a shout and reared his head as of to bite her—but she pulled her hand away to prevent such an occurrence.