Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sometimes Total Strangers Know Us Best of All

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sometimes Total Strangers Know Us Best of All

Article excerpt

It's something of a challenge to the modesty of one's self- esteem, but within the space of two weeks I have - without the slightest strategy - been called "an angel" and "a star." Of course one should not lightly accept flattery in whatever form it takes or whatever quarter it arrives from - in this case from complete strangers. When I told my better half that I had been called an angel, she chuckled merrily and with meaning. "Ah," she said, looking at me doubtfully, "like Clarence?"

Clarence, for the few left in the world who are unfamiliar with that 1947 film "It's a Wonderful Life," was not what you'd expect an angel to look like. George Bailey (as played by a real star known as James Stewart) was at first very unconvinced by Clarence's celestial credentials. But appearances can deceive.

The thing is, getting on to the southbound train, I couldn't get on. Blocking the doorway, and very firmly stuck, was probably the biggest and heaviest trunk that anyone had ever tried to get on to a train. Climbing over it was out of the question. And its owner was neither large nor muscular. In fact she was petite.

"Can I help?" I asked this question partly, of course, out of self-interest (my seat was beyond the blockage) and partly because she was rather obviously in need of help. Well, between us we got the thing moving and finally found a non-obstructive space halfway down the carriage into which it just about slotted.

"Oh," she then exclaimed, "I left my pound coin in the trolley on the platform."

There was plenty of time before the guard would blow his whistle, so I set off along the platform toward the trolley park. I never reached it, because a woman in a smart uniform was heading my way, and she had rescued the coin.

Its owner was happy to see it again, and she was calling a friend on her mobile phone. "I have been helped by an angel," she was saying. "I can imagine him in a long white robe." A rather slow angel, in fact, who, until much later, failed to realize she was referring to him. …

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