Years ago, a friend posted a sign in her work area which said, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” I’m convinced this is true.
I saw a friend at the grocery store this evening, my friend John Martin. I’ve known John for many years; he used to live on my street. He divorced from the wife with whom he lived and she kept the house. I still saw him, though. He’s one of the managers at my grocery store, and in any event, we stayed friends. We don’t see each other much, but the connection remains solid.
We both chanced to shop at the same time this weekend. I teased him about shopping in his own store. “Isn’t that sort of like a busman’s holiday,” I said, and he laughed. He told me that a friend had broken her hip and needed a place to stay. His shopping involved food to fix Easter dinner for them. As our conversation progressed, I learned that the woman had several medical problems and that John had assumed a quasi-case-manager role for her, accompanying her to doctors’ appointments and helping her follow their instructions. A good Samaritan. An angel.
Tonight I saw him again, at the same store. Standing outside, a cart full of groceries, wearing sunglasses to shield his eyes from the afternoon sun, he mentioned that he had also scheduled himself to take another friend for her catarac surgery the next day. “You’re always helping damsels in distress, John,” I told him. “You’re a good man.” He replied, “I don’t know about that; not really.” I put my hand on his arm. He shrugged. I said, “Let’s go for a cup of coffee some time soon, and I won’t ask you to do anything for me, how’s that?” He laughed.
He took his sunglasses off, and we spoke, briefly, of other things. My son. His ex-wife. This, that, and chicken fat. I watched his eyes, the crinkles around them, the smile that reached his entire face. The vague fatigue, probably from helping too many people who have no one else to do for them. “You’re a good man,” I repeated, and reached to put my arms around his shoulders. We stood, for a few minutes, then broke apart.
“Let’s get together and I’ll make a bet with you about something, and you’ll owe me a dollar,” he said, and laughed. I told him we’d do that. He turned, and made his way across the street to a little pale green Mini into which he loaded the food he had bought to feed the stray sad woman with the broken hip.
I could almost see the outline of his wings, and the glint of his halo in the setting sun.