Upon you now is an invitation. I invite you to share with me your angel stories, short or long, so that I may in turn publish them and share them with the world. To participate, send your story to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post them here under the title series “Of Angel Stories.”
I’ll go first. So this story is almost two years old now. My circumstances since this experience have changed quite a bit, and I wonder if I’m not being too dramatic to think that this was a pivotal moment for me ending up where I am today. Read on.
Two years ago I was up in Chicago at a musician’s conference. It was a first for me; calling myself a songwriter enough to go to a conference full of them. I think I had just released “Windows” and was about to release “The Bookstore;” I was hesitant and unsure of what I had written and its value. The first night of the weekend, I met new friends and partied and had a blast; the next night we built on those new friendships and filled up a hotel room with music and laughter and meaning. I was surrounded by talent and vibrant people going places; it was a great feeling, but I confess I didn’t think I belonged or deserved to be there. I kept thinking, “These people are incredible, maybe I just need to be a fan.” So on Sunday morning, early, I was feeling the urge to get away from it for just a minute and think. Walking down the sidewalk, a beautiful, cool Sunday morning, empty streets, I was feeling happy but also just a little out of place. I walked for a couple blocks, hoping for a place to get breakfast, and Yelp led me to a little diner a few blocks away. Waiting at the crosswalk, the only other human walking around at that time, I met an older man with a huge smile and very kind demeanor. I don’t know why, but I can’t remember what he looked like. I have tried very hard to see him in my mind, but I can’t. It’s weird. All I know is what I wrote down. I know he was brown. I know he wore a hat. I know he had freckles and long eyelashes.
So, we are crossing the street, and he says something casual to me like, “What do you do?” and of course I have this internal squeamishness on how to answer. Do I call myself a songwriter? Even to a stranger? I answered that I was a teacher. So he asked me a couple questions about that. We kept walking for just a bit and arrived at the diner where I was heading. I opened the door and without thinking about it at all said, “Will you join me for breakfast? It’s on me.”
He was as surprised as I was, but I asked again and he agreed, shyly. We went in and ordered, and you could tell he felt a little funny about accepting. We walked over to the counter and ordered; he was going to get just a drink until I insisted that he eat with me. Then we went and sat down at a booth and started our talking. I asked him a few questions. He was a writer of poems and stories, lived in uncertain circumstances most of the time, loved his parents, loved people, loved to ask questions and explore the past and motivations of all people, to understand them utterly and love them despite. That was my impression, anyway.
I asked him his name, and he smiled and told me a story about his father and how he taught him to always regard women; that as life came from them they possess an earthly goodness to be revered. As he is saying this he is slowly reaching for his wallet and stretching the story out. I am feeling off center. I am feeling overwhelmed. I am feeling I have stumbled into another plane. He pulls out his driver’s license and shows me his name; I guess he knew I wouldn’t believe him otherwise. His name was Stylevester Brown. Not misspelled. Not made-up. Stylevester Brown.
He asked me a few questions, and I told him why I was in Chicago; told him about songwriting and music. He knew which things to say to bring out the root, the truth of what was on my mind. The things he told me were so surreal and strange and wonderful that I cannot truly express to you what it felt like to sit there and listen. I had the feeling of being outside of myself and talking to myself and I said, “Don’t miss any of this. Remember every single thing.” But I couldn’t. It was too much. He talked of Adam and Eve, he talked of voices and poetry, goodness and truth and living. He talked of existence and place and meaning. He said to me, “All the good you see in me? That’s all the good inside of you. You talked to me when we crossed the street. I’m not someone you ever thought you’d meet.” He said, “You have something to say that needs to be heard. You have a truth that needs to be known.” He spoke of God. He spoke of good things, and where they come from. He talked of stories and of telling them and love and loving and how best to be that in the world.
All this time of course I am thinking also to myself: What is happening? Is this a dream or is this real? He asks me what time I have to leave. I look at my phone. Say –it’s okay, this is more important. He smiles. He tells me about his mom and what she taught him; he says: “Everything good I ever got or ever learned came from a woman, glorious and powerful in kindness and love. And when they cut you out of me, and I opened up eyes, I beheld what loved me and taught me to be. From that moment I worshiped you.”
So in this moment my brain is searching for some kind of sense-making and I realize suddenly and with an audible gasp what is happening and I say: “I just figured it out– You’re an angel.”
He smiles, doesn’t miss a beat–he looks up, gestures with his hand “She figured it out.”
So what happens as I part ways with this angel-prophet on the street on a Sunday morning in Chicago, two strangers as commonplace, as unimportant as they come? Angels sing in my mind, and the day, the path, is brighter and clearer as someone has highlighted each step in front of my feet. And I can walk even faster and I can smile even brighter, and I can fill up each human I pass with the goodness that is flowing out of me in abundance, like excitement, like happiness. And I arrive late and completely brimming at the opening session and find my new friends who have saved a seat for me near the front of the auditorium. I sit by Blair and his goodness is evident in his whole self, and he smiles at me and I feel secure despite my smallness in the big room. And I see that I belong there. That I am part of it. Part of it all. And needed in a way that I may not understand or need to. But with confidence in the divine blessing of it all, I sit and listen and take in what I now see is mine to be.