TOUCHED BY ANGELS
David C. Hughes
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
I often traveled to Buffalo, New York, for my engineering job, and from November through April the work occasionally gave me the opportunity to re-experience one aspect of life growing up in upstate New York: cold weather. And upstate New York in the winter can deliver some of the coldest and snowiest.
During this week in late February I arrived in Buffalo when the temperatures hovered right around freezing. In any given year the area gets about 94 inches of snow, and during February the typical monthly total is a bit over 17 inches. But this year, like last, the snowfall totals had been significantly lower. So as the Delta MD-88 skimmed over the dairy farms and neatly-packed suburbs on approach to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, I noticed the area not blanketed by snow but covered in the flat brownness of a worn-out winter. Threads of snow huddled in the shadows of the naked woods, and dirty piles of it stood hunched around the perimeters of parking lots, but it appeared no fresh snow had recently fallen—and stayed—in the general area.
That night the thin cloud deck drifted out, unveiling a crisp full moon, and the next morning when I peeked out the hotel window I saw the cars in the parking lot covered in a patina of crystalline frost. Lucky for me the Avis rental car I drove came equipped with the one piece of standard equipment all cars in upstate New York need: an ice scraper. Unfortunately, not all rental car companies ensure their customers depart from their terminals with this critical piece of hardware. After I left the hotel room and started the Ford Fusion, I began to attack the ice on the driver’s side window. That’s when I noticed the car next to me was running, steam wafting out of the tail pipe, windshield wipers occasionally grinding across the ice-covered windshield. Then the driver, a young woman, tall and bundled in a long coat, got out of the car and hustled into the hotel.
“Well, that ain’t gonna cut it,” I thought as I worked on skinning my Fusion of its coat of rime. Obviously the young lady didn’t have a scraper, and I wondered if she’d run back into the hotel to see if she could borrow one. At that moment I determined I would scrape the windows of not only my car but the car next to me. Of course I’m not going to pass this up, I thought. What better opportunity to do a kind deed for someone in need? So when I finished the Fusion, I started scraping off the windshield of the young woman’s car. Suddenly the passenger side door opened and another young lady peered over the car roof. “Thank you,” she beamed. “Thank you so much!”
“No problem,” I replied, and kept scraping. The first young woman hustled back down the sidewalk from the hotel entrance, hands in the pockets of her long coat.
“Thank you,” she called as she climbed back into the driver’s seat.
“You’re welcome,” I said. “I saw your windshield wipers moving and I thought ‘That ain’t gonna cut it.’” I worked my way around their car from driver’s side windshield, around the back, and finished on the passenger’s side windshield. The passenger wound her window down as I finished up to thank me again. “Are you going to the airport, or going to work?” I asked.
“We’re going to take the bar exam,” the woman replied.
“Awesome!” I said as I finished. “God bless. You’re both going to do well!” After thanking me again, I climbed back into my car with a smile on my face, a light in my heart, and joy in my spirit. That felt good! And as I pulled out of the parking lot and headed to work, I actually got choked up with joy: a kind deed, even something as simple as scraping ice off someone’s car windows, had made my day. Literally. I thought of the verse in the Bible where it says to be kind to strangers because, who knows, you may actually be serving angels (Hebrews 13:2). To me those two ladies were angels in the fact that they provided me an opportunity to serve, even in a seemingly insignificant way.
The rest of the day I was charged up—I worked with confidence and assertiveness, and with a clarity and alertness that lasted the whole shift. Man, I thought, if doing a simple kind deed does this, I need to keep my eyes open for every opportunity I can find! What a disproportionately huge reward for such a simple act.
When have you passed up the opportunity to show hospitality to a stranger? That disheveled guy standing on the street corner holding a sign that says “Will work for food”? That toothless woman who barrels up to you as you leave a restaurant, looking for money because she’s “stranded” and needs bus fare to get home? Calling 9-1-1 when someone flies off the road behind you on a dark, rainy morning and the headlights disappear through the guardrail and into the darkness? Those two elderly ladies pulled over on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere? What have you done in these kinds of situations? Have you ignored them? Or have you responded? Have you passed up angels, or have you served your neighbor in seemingly insignificant ways?
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the Law?’ [Jesus] replied. ‘How do you read it?’ [The expert] answered, ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”‘ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’”
When God was laying down the Law through Moses to the entire assembly of Israel, he commanded them “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). When Jesus was tested by the law expert He turned the question back onto the questioner by asking him how he read the law; his reply was correct. “Do this and you will live,” Jesus said. Your heart will be glad. Your face will be radiant. You’ll walk in God’s light, God’s energy, God’s communion. You’ll walk in joy. Try it and see if it’s not true.
In John 13:33-34, Jesus gave the disciples a new command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” A new command? By His death Jesus brought the Law to fulfillment, but loving one another transcends the Law as Jesus transcends death. Jesus’ command—this new command—placed the Father’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves in the context of Jesus’ ministry among us: we love one another because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). This is truly the second greatest command, and one that is timeless. If you ever wonder what the meaning of life is, re-read Luke 10:25-28. Love God, love your neighbor. Pretty simple, eh? Now go touch some angels, and God in turn will touch you in more ways than you can imagine.
Copyright ©2013 David C. Hughes