I fell into my seat ready for my forty-minute train ride home. Leaning into the window, I clutched the book that always comforted me. A very tall, African-American gentleman in a cream-colored suit walked towards me. Mind you - there were plenty of empty double and triple seats amongst a few scattered commuters. "Excuse me Miss," he said. Wow! “Miss,” it had been a long time.
"May I sit with you?" I didn't look at all those empty seats but I was tempted. Instead I replied, "Yes. Please do." I settled in and figured it would be a different ride tonight.
He was refined, almost regal. How strange for someone to ask if they can sit with me. The average, weary commuter plops down their stuff, tosses outerwear onto the overhead rack and falls into the seat inevitably crashing into you before settling in. Here, this man sat quietly, just watching - me!
I decided to let it go and go about my reading. I had been reading the Acts of the Apostles before he arrived. He sat back and smiled. I could feel him almost approving, though not intruding.
As we pulled into Newark Penn Station the man stood, looked down and thanked me for sharing my seat with him. My words spilled out, "You're welcome, have a good night." It was strange again. Yet, he had such a warm smile. I felt such peace. One, two, three strides and he was at the exit door.
Everyone was exiting to the left in the direction of the station. But my stranger went to the right. What was to the right? I kept checking if he had re-boarded the first train car. Nope. Now truly curious, I was glued to my window looking for him. The train doors closed and we chugged out of the station. He disappeared as new people boarded. Where was he? The only thing to the right was a five-foot drop to the tracks and an empty platform.
I slumped back into my seat still puzzled. The conductor punched tickets and commuters chatted. I grabbed my Bible and had a light bulb moment! The stranger had to be an angel. He was pleased. And I, immensely grateful, was filled with His Spirit. Thank you, thank you Spirit Divine.
"Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown hospitality
to angels without knowing it."
- Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV®)
In the late sixties and early seventies, sitting at the curb was a common past time for me, Eileen, Nancy, and Kathy. Close to the fire hydrant that stood as a jewel in front of my house, we were far enough away from our parents’ earshot. On summer days or after school, we pondered what we should do. We shared our hopes, giggled about boys, and contemplated what the world was like beyond our tree-lined neighborhood.
Occasionally, these lazy afternoons were delightfully interrupted. Our quiet chauffeur arrived early afternoons to scoop my sister Tina and I up and into what I thought was our very own special family car. Limousine was not in my vocabulary at eight-years old. Little did we know then that riding downtown Elizabeth was also about giving my Mom, mother of four children (in five years) a much-needed break.
We sat behind our genteel driver. My sister and I bounced and shimmied on the red leather interior of my grandfather's cream-colored Studebaker. Pop-Pop, as we endeared him, my Mom's Dad, stood at least 6 feet tall. Looking back, Pop-Pop seemed much taller. He ushered us into our happy getaway. The thing I found most fascinating was how the passenger door opened at the same point as the driver door. It was very glamorous. I told him so every time.
We let our driver lead the way for a bit then commanded him to turn here, oh no, maybe this way. And when we rode down Broad Street in Elizabeth we gaped at the shoppers strolling up and down the avenue and into the big department stores. I promised myself one day I would shop here and I did, with my sweet childhood friends.
The world wasn't simple then either. The Vietnam War raged on and played out on the national evening news. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy reeled the country. Carefree, we entered our magical coach. As the years revealed, my grandfather took these lovely rides as a respite for himself. His beloved was waging her own war.
Breast cancer would take her from us all too soon. And yet, the quiet conversations and silliness inside the cozy Studebaker went on as if all were right with everyone's world.
We enjoyed the largeness of life in that old Studebaker. This memory boldly surfaced when Danny, then a four-year old, asked me, "Mommy, are you sure you are going the right way?" I smiled. Laughter erupted between him and his brother. Thoughts of a different family car, an era and cherished ones long gone, flooded in with joy. And in that moment, all was definitely right with the world.
Eileen, Nancy, and Kathy have stood strong among the heartaches of their lives knowing the Lord as their stronghold of Love. I wonder sometimes if they too think of those simple days. Pop-Pop died two months shy of my wedding. I left his rehabilitation center one evening with harsh, unnecessary words. We would never have the chance to speak again. He died the next morning. When I was younger, I asked for his forgiveness in prayer. Somehow deep in my spirit, I knew he did. But it wasn’t until I got into God’s word, and accepted His magnificent Love for me, did I believe it.
Today in the old neighborhood, everyone has at least two or three cars parked at the curb, and the trees, well, they have long been uprooted from the earth. When I see a rare Studebaker rolling down the highway, it takes my breath away, and I remember Love.
There is One who waits for us, the Keeper of our souls, the Protector of our hearts. Curbs might not be so accessible these days. Yet, life has shown me that all things are possible
with this authentic Designer of the universe, mankind, and yes, and even curbs.
The Amplified Bible (AMP) translates Selah as "pause, and think of that." Yes, Selah, thank you Father, I think of you, always, whether I'm moving, breathing, or wherever I am parking my derriere.
“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever in the shelter of your wings. Selah” - Psalm 61:3-4 (NIV®)
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