From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Angels in Seminole

In July 2002, Deborah woke up to three very hungry young children with just $2.23 in her purse. The night before, her husband had left her and the children, swearing that he would never return. The children, two boys and a girl, were ages four, two, and five months, respectively.

Even before he left, the children’s father—and her husband— was seldom home. When he was at home, they feared his presence. As soon as they heard his voice, the two boys would run and hide under their beds. The infant girl cried unceasingly.

When her husband finally decided never to return, she and her children would no longer be subjected to abuse; however, now there would be nothing with which to feed, clothe, and shelter her children. She would have to replace what little income he had brought in. As she picked up the clothes her husband had left in the house, a $20 bill fell out of a shirt pocket. Deborah’s first thought was to buy food for her children.

Deborah fed her children egg sandwiches, then they bathed, put on their best clean clothing, climbed into her old rusty 1979 Dodge and drove through Seminole, Oklahoma, to look for a job. Deborah and her children went to every plant, restaurant, and department store in the small town but found nothing. The children got in and out of the car along with their mother so that by noon they were very tired and stressed. As her children cried for something to eat, Deborah prayed to God for guidance and the strength to help her get a job to support her family.

The one place she had forgotten to try was the local Sonic restaurant. The manager was an older Native American woman. Grandma Harjo, as she was called by those who knew her, needed someone to work the 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM shift. She offered Deborah a starting hourly wage of $5.50. She also indicated that Deborah could start that night if she wished to do so.

Excited, Deborah fed her children and herself at the Sonic, then raced to get ready for her first job since high school. Deborah drove to a nearby lifelong friend’s home to see if her friend’s teenage daughter would babysit her three children. The fourteen-year-old girl agreed. That evening, Deborah and her children knelt down in thanksgiving to God for what she had received that day.

The weeks passed and summer changed to fall, then winter. The heating bills added a strain to an already stretched income. The old Dodge needed tires, antifreeze, and an oil change. One day, exhausted from the pressure of work and concerns for her old vehicle and the welfare of her children, Deborah unlocked her car door. Inside she found four brand-new tires in the back seat and a gray envelope with enough money to winterize her car. Amazed, Deborah could not believe her good fortune, but there was no note—nothing to identify her benefactor.

Deborah went to an auto repair garage, where she gave the owner what money she had and offered to clean his office in exchange for mounting and balancing her tires and winterizing her car.

After nearly six months at Sonic, Deborah was working six days a week instead of five, yet there still was not enough money. Christmas was just around the corner. One of her fellow employees told her that Saint Benedict’s Catholic Church in Shawnee gave food and Christmas gifts to struggling families.

Deborah made the seventeen-mile drive to Shawnee, where Father Maurus, pastor of Saint Benedict, greeted her and provided clothing, food, and toys for her children. Pleased, she thanked God and quickly returned to Seminole. Now she had the problem of hiding the gifts from her children because it was still a few days before Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, some of Sonic’s usual customers came to celebrate the holiday before the restaurant closed for Christmas. People Deborah had known all of her life ordered a variety of food. After she served them and they paid, they gave her their change as Christmas gifts. Among the customers were Father Basil Keenan, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church of Seminole, members from other local churches, people from the Seminole American Legion, and employees from Seminole State College. They were all there.

As usual, Deborah was ready to leave the restaurant near midnight. She was very tired having served so many people that Christmas Eve. She hoped she would have enough strength to put up a Christmas tree and move the presents she had received from Saint Benedict’s church up from the basement to her small living room.

It was very dark when the business lights were turned off. Deborah walked to her car, and as soon as she opened the door, a neatly wrapped box fell out, hitting her right foot. Now, wide-awake, she could see that her rusty old 1979 Dodge was full from top to bottom with boxes of all shapes and sizes. She turned on the car’s interior light and found blue jeans, shirts, shoes, and underclothing for little boys and girls. A note asked her to check the trunk. Slowly getting out of her car, she walked back to the trunk and opened it. In the trunk were boxes filled with food, including a large ham, canned goods, bread, fresh vegetables, Christmas candy, pies, cakes, fruitcakes, and more. Enough, it seemed, for a month. Stunned, her eyes filled with tears. As she drove the five miles to her house, she said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the kindness of friends and strangers.

As she watched the sun rise in the eastern Oklahoma sky on Christmas morning and heard the laughter of her three children, Deborah Meeks treasured always in her heart and mind the people in the small town of Seminole, Oklahoma. Yes, Deborah would go on to say there are angels, and they live in Seminole, Oklahoma, U.S.A!

Stephen A. Peterson

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