96: The Mark of Angels

96: The Mark of Angels

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

The Mark of Angels

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.

~Jean de La Fontaine

Many years ago I visited Bern, the charming capital of Switzerland. Feeling liberated from itineraries one evening, I wandered through the medieval streets into the heart of the city. The warm twilight breeze had lured swarms of people into the town square. Old men played checkers at cement tables amid musicians, jugglers and other assorted street performers. I paused to drink in the carnival of sights and sounds.

An American accent rang out above the bustle. “One . . . Two . . . Three!”

A burst of laughter erupted from the crowd around a juggler. I moved in closer, drawn in by his act and familiar accent. After a finale of quick-handed magic tricks, his appreciative audience threw coins and moved on.

As the juggler bent down to collect the loose change, I felt compelled to connect. “Excuse me. Uh, I liked your act.”

The juggler looked up with a surprised expression, as if he didn’t expect anyone to stay around. “Hey thanks! You sound like an American.”

I laughed, admitting that I’d been drawn to speak with him partly because of his Yankee accent. As travelers tend to do, I politely asked him what part of the States he was from.

“California,” the juggler replied. “And you?”

I responded in the same general way. “Pennsylvania. Outside Philadelphia.”

The juggler stopped picking up coins.

“Oh . . . where outside Philadelphia?”

I was slightly taken aback. Why did the name of the town matter if he was from California? Feeling silly again, but strangely compelled to talk, I answered. “Haverford.”

The juggler’s jaw dropped and his bearded face softened. He spoke barely above a whisper. “I went to Haverford High School.”

“But I thought you said you were from California?”

The juggler got up off his knees and sat on the edge of a concrete flower container. He drew in a breath and poured out a story he’d locked away for a long time.

“I discovered I loved to perform while I was in high school. I wanted to study the arts in college but my stepfather felt I should study a serious subject, like dentistry. I felt I had no choice, so I went to college in California, but I couldn’t study what I didn’t love. Rather than go home and face my stepfather, I left the States to pursue my dream in Europe.” With a quiet sigh he concluded, “I haven’t spoken with my mom in seven years.”

After further discussion, I learned the juggler’s mother lived three minutes from my house. In fact, I drove past her home every day on the way to work. We stood in quiet awe of the “coincidence” of our meeting.

The juggler broke the silence. “If I give you my mom’s number, would you call her for me when you get back home? Would you tell her I’m okay?”

As a mother, I ached for a woman who was separated from her son. I nodded a tearful yes and tucked the number away. The juggler and I parted, forever changed by our meeting thousands of miles from home.

On the plane ride back to the States, doubts crept into my thoughts. What if his mother was angry? What if she didn’t want to hear from me?

Once back home, I picked up the phone and put it back in the cradle countless times; but I couldn’t ignore the strong inner voice that urged me to call. After taking a deep breath, I dialed the number on the crumpled piece of paper. A woman answered the phone. I spoke before I lost my nerve.

“Hello. You don’t know me but . . .” The story of my trip to Bern spilled out, rapidly reaching the part where I met the juggler in the town square. As I relayed her son’s greeting, the woman cried, “Oh, thank God!”

In a voice thick with emotion, her questions tumbled out one after another. “How did he look? Is he well? Is he okay?”

I found myself in the peculiar position of describing a son to his mother. I assured her that he was healthy, happy and seemed to be doing well. I described the juggler’s hair, his beard and his request that I contact her. The juggler’s mom cried even harder.

“My son’s last letter said he was thinking of coming home. He wrote that the next time I heard from him would be a sign that all was forgiven and he’d be home soon. This is the sign I was waiting for! Thank you so much for calling!”

After I hung up the phone, I marveled at the odds of meeting the juggler at just the right place, just the right time and just the right moment in his life. I smiled through tears of my own and knew that chance had nothing to do with it.

Destiny, serendipity, sweet forgiveness — all marks of angels at work.

~Teri Goggin-Roberts

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners