Thanksgiving came to our house about a month ago. Before I tell you about it, I need to say a word about the community where Wendy and I live. Pilgrim Place is the home of about 300 retirees. Most of us have spent our lives in religious, academic or charitable institutions somewhere in the world. To say we are a well-educated lot would be an understatement. A list of our degrees, articles, books and other honors would extend halfway to the moon. We are aware that, for whatever reasons, we are truly blessed. But perhaps we are just fortunate. “Lucky” is the non-theological word I often use.
So let me tell you what happened at our house about a month ago. Long after dark on a Saturday evening, there was a knock on our front door, which interrupted a TV program so mindless I don’t even remember what it was. Nobody comes around at that hour unless it is a neighborhood emergency. Slightly peeved at being taken away from my Saturday night liquid refreshment, I opened the door to see on the very dark porch a very dark face. I could only surmise it was an undetected beggar canvassing the neighborhood looking for a handout. Having politeness genetically embedded, I opened the screen door to see just who it might be. It turned out to be a young man whose name is Anthony.
For years Anthony had worked at Pilgrim Place as part of a crew of intellectually limited men who cut our grass and rake our leaves. I would ask him almost daily how he was doing, and every day with a smile he would reply, “I’m blessed.” Compared to my blessings, which are rarely as abundant as I might like, Anthony had very little for which to be thankful. But his response was right from the heart, not just a word he had come up with. He really believed he was “blessed,” which had a very different meaning than our use of the word.
I have a dog named Mattie, who is discriminating to a fault. She is not nasty, but there are very few people to whom she will give the time of day. She will just walk away from almost everyone who tries to pat her. Some of our neighbors are offended by the way she ignores them “Stuck up,” they would say. But on our daily morning walks she would run to Anthony for a lively ear massage. Anthony not only knew he was blessed; he also knew how to give blessings.
He left us a year or so ago to find a dishwashing job in a nearby restaurant. He came by to tell us that he had recently been promoted, and was now helping to prepare food. He had been doubly blessed. Anthony had ridden his bike several miles in the dark just to stop by and bless us. He is part of a church most Pilgrims would think too unsophisticated to merit our attention, and was not one of our kind.
He stayed about fifteen minutes and was to make another visit before biking back home, but on our front lawn he asked Wendy it he could pray for us — and he did. I was too choked up to join them. The next day I heard a sermon about angels God sends to get us over the rough places in life. I had been consumed with worry about our daughter who is having serious medical problems, a beautiful little grandson with Down syndrome who needs to know a world full of kind people, and a granddaughter seven months pregnant who is in the hospital trying to save her baby. (At this writing three pound Norman and his mother are both doing fine.)
I needed an encounter with an angel, and one knocked on our door late Saturday night about a month ago.