2: The First Time He Picked Me Up

2: The First Time He Picked Me Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

The First Time He Picked Me Up

Be still, and know that I am God.

~Psalms 46:10

When I was five years old we lived in Brussels. Dad’s work with Pan American World Airways took us to many parts of the world, but for the first six years of my life, we lived in Belgium. Our house was a three-story, brick-fronted place on a little cobblestone street. Entrance into and out of that dead-end street was through an enormous stone archway.

From the windows of our house I could look toward the end of that street, through the archway, to the ever-busy four-lane roadway that lay just beyond. Trolley cars on tracks used to speed to and fro on that road, and the automobile traffic was endless. Under the shadows of the archway was a candy shop run by an elderly couple.

I used to walk to the little shop on my own several times each week, and each time one of the elderly proprietors must have wondered how I had managed to leave my house without being seen by my parents.

One gray and gloomy morning, I snuck out again. Dad was at work at the airport and Mom must have been upstairs doing something. That busy roadway beckoned me. This time I didn’t go to the little shop. Instead, I stood on the curb of that four-lane road, wondering what lay beyond.

I started to run across the road and over the trolley tracks. But I hadn’t looked both ways, and a trolley was speeding down the second set of tracks from the opposite direction. I actually ran right into the side of one of the trolley carriages. The force of the impact threw me backwards several feet, right back onto the first set of tracks I had just crossed and into the path of yet another speeding trolley. I remember seeing the growing red stain on the front of my shirt and the stream of blood as it gushed from my nose. It felt as if my face had been shattered. I also remember looking up to my left and seeing the oncoming trolley’s driver, his face frozen in fear. He couldn’t stop in time.

Just then a strong pair of arms lifted me from the tracks and held me tight, right between the two speeding trolleys, in the middle of those two sets of tracks. The voice was clear and distinct, sounding as if it emanated from the inside of a hollow tunnel, yet somehow soothing and calming, “Be still,” it said, “Be still.” A car slammed on its brakes and came to a screeching halt somewhere on the road behind me. I thought I heard someone shouting something in French in the distance.

Once the trolleys had passed, those arms carried me back to the sidewalk and put me down right at the door of the little candy shop. I looked up to see the man who had saved me, but no one was there. No one was anywhere for at least a full block all the way around. A few pedestrians could be seen walking about a hundred feet away. One of them was pointing at me and whispering to her companion, but that was it. Another female pedestrian started to run in my direction, her arms outstretched, her mouth wide open in a silent scream, the look of shock and utter befuddlement clearly written on her countenance, but she stopped short and stared, unable to fathom what she had just witnessed.

I was stunned and unable to speak. There was no blood at all, not even on my shirt. I touched my face, my nose, felt inside my mouth with my hand. Everything felt normal, with no pain or discomfort of any kind. I opened the door to the candy shop and the little bell tinkled as I walked inside.

The elderly shop owner had his hand over his mouth and his eyes were as wide as saucers. “Comme?” he asked, “How?” He quickly walked around from behind the counter and took my hand. He let me fill a paper bag with as many sweets as I could carry and walked me back to my parents’ house at the end of the street.

I saw him looking up and down the cobblestone road in all directions, as if for an explanation. Tears were running down his face. It was the first time I ever remember seeing a man openly crying. He and my mother spoke for several minutes, and from that moment on my movements were severely restricted. I was never again allowed to venture out onto that four-lane roadway with those two trolley tracks. Then he leaned down and hugged me closely before slowly walking back to his shop under the shadows of the archway.

“How?” the sweet shop owner had asked. The answer is obvious to me. Those strong arms comforted me and that voice said, “Be still.” My injuries disappeared.

I have felt that protection many times in my life, and very probably many more times that I’m not even aware of. That was only the first time that my angel picked me up and saved me.

~John Elliott

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