32: An Angel of Calm

32: An Angel of Calm

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us

An Angel of Calm

The magnitude of life is overwhelming. Angels are here to help us take it peace by peace.

~Levende Waters

Going to school during my older brother’s intense six-year battle with drug abuse was an ordeal in itself — hiding my distress daily from friends, pretending to be carefree. It should have been over after he died. But the stress of his murder highly suspected to be at the hands of a dealer eight months earlier had left me even more anxiety-ridden. Especially the day that my best friend begged me to accept a ride home from her after school. I could see tension in her hands as she fumbled for her keys. What a pair we were. If ever two young girls needed a miracle, it was us.

Mandy had driven her family’s blue boat of a car to school on her own as she occasionally did. “I can’t take long,” she said, in her usual nerve-wracked manner, “but you’re really on the way. . . . ” Then, almost like a whispered afterthought, “My mother said it was okay.”

I tried to mask my shudder. What would happen if Mandy got home a few minutes late?

Mandy was such a different person inside the walls of school. Laughing, talkative, caring. But no sooner would the final bell ring than she’d begin a slow, distracted freeze — a tightening of her body as she’d grip her books to her chest and race, stumbling, out to a car waiting at the curb. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of a conversation coming out of class. She’d get that fearful look and rush out.

Often, I watched Mandy jump into the car, hanging her head low. The driver appeared to be chewing her out for taking too long, flashing angry eyes and waving her hands in Mandy’s face.

Connecting the dots I realized poor Mandy was being abused, at least verbally.

Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I slid in the passenger seat even though I was nervous about accepting a ride from such a new driver — and a jittery one at that. But what could happen in just two miles?

Mandy backed out of the school parking lot and pulled out at the light. It seemed like we were moving at a snail’s pace, but I was glad she was cautious. Carefully, she swung left from the busy boulevard onto the side street leading to my neighborhood. At that moment, from nowhere, a car was coming straight at us!

“Mandy!” I cried at the splintering sound of two cars colliding head-on, rocking us backward. We’d barely been going — what, fifteen miles an hour? Still, we sat there, stunned.

Mandy gripped the wheel, her face and knuckles white as snow. “Wh-what d-do I d-do?” she whispered. I stared back.

I had no idea. I didn’t even drive. What do you do when someone hits your car? Did we have to call the police? (This was pre-cell phone days, and we’d have had to bang on a stranger’s door to call anyone.)

The other driver slammed out of his car, irritation darkening his face. I could run home, I thought wildly . . . get Mom . . . but Dad had our only car at work. Poor Mandy began to shake. It wasn’t her fault. But how could we prove it?

Just then, an urgent knocking on Mandy’s window made us jump. She lowered the window, where a man not involved in the accident had suddenly appeared. Dressed like a businessman, his expression was calm. Confidently, he patted Mandy’s hand still on the wheel. “It’s okay,” he comforted her. “Don’t worry. I’ve talked to the other driver and he knows it’s his fault. Neither of you has much damage.”

Mandy looked up at him wordlessly, focusing as if on a lifeline. Tall and strong looking, his words and manner made me strangely calm. The sudden peace inside the car seemed almost otherworldly.

“Here’s what you need to do,” he said, explaining step by step how to obtain the other driver’s insurance, information she should get and give, what to look for in her glove compartment. Flashing her one more assuring smile, he repeated, “Don’t worry.”

The two of us opened the doors and stepped out. Quietly, Mandy began talking with the other driver. Things seemed to be going smoothly enough and Mandy had stopped shaking. It had only been a moment when I turned to thank the man who had advised us, but — glancing up and down the street — I could find no one around. Anywhere. No other cars were on the street and there was no activity at any of the houses.

Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen or heard any cars besides Mandy’s and the other driver. Never heard any doors shut anywhere, or even footsteps. And — I wondered then — when had he had time to talk to the other driver before us?

Soon we were on our way and pulling into my driveway. Mom greeted us at the door, where the story spilled out. “Stay for tea, honey,” Mom urged her. “You could use a minute before you get going.”

Certain she’d refuse, I was amazed to find Mandy follow us in and take a seat in the wing chair. Cradling steaming cups in our hands, we were silent.

“Mandy,” I said thoughtfully. “Did you notice . . . that man just . . . disappeared?”

She nodded, slowly.

“Girls,” Mom said, “I think God sent you an angel today.”

Tears pooled in Mandy’s eyes and I could feel that same choking back I always felt when I watched my favorite movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. Especially in the moment when little Zuzu tells Jimmy Stewart about every time a bell rings. “That’s right, honey!” he’d exclaim exuberantly. “That’s right!”

That afternoon, Mom called Mandy’s mother and smoothed the way for her to stay and talk over cookies for a bit. It was the first of many days when she would somehow manage to steal away to spend an hour or so with us after school. I never knew all of what she confided to Mom, but soon Mandy moved in with a beloved grandma who had been praying for her all along. Since that day of the accident, we both had fresh hope in new beginnings.

Sometimes, I’d walk down that street coming home from school, looking in open garages or doorways, just to make sure. But I never saw him again. Something in me knew. He had been no ordinary man.

The memory of his reassuring, calm presence, framed in the window behind Mandy’s white-knuckled grip, reminds me that God cares personally about our sorrows and fears. So deeply that He still sends his angels as He did in the Bible. And they still have the same message. Do not worry. God is with you.

~Pam Depoyan

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