Recently, I had eye surgery at the Landstuhl Army Hospital and was scheduled for a checkup the following morning. After the ophthalmologist cleared me to go home, I returned to my hotel room to pack. With my mind focused on getting back home, little did I know that I was about to experience a touching event, which would affect me in the most profound way.
Still a bit worn out from the surgery, I wasn’t looking forward to the long hour and a half drive back home. Before leaving, I did a quick scan of the room and bathroom area to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. Next, I slung my purse over my shoulder, grabbed my two suitcases and my large tote bag and clumsily dragged them behind me out of the room to the top of the stairs. Unfortunately, the nagging arthritic pain in my knees reminded me that I had to be careful and take my time going down the steep stairs. I took in a deep breath and silently asked for divine intervention so that I wouldn’t suffer an accident and injure myself. A bit unsteady, I winced as I took the first step down. The balance, which I thought I had, quickly disappeared. After cautiously taking the second step, my knees gave out and made me lose my balance. Immediately, I grabbed the railing to keep from falling. As a result, I was forced to let go of everything from my hands, and seemingly all hell broke loose. My suitcases and tote bag tumbled wildly down the stairs making loud THUDs before landing on the bottom floor. To make matters worse, all the contents of my tote bag spilled out on the floor, too. Dammit! The sliver of consolation I held on to was that at least all my stuff was already on the first floor and I wouldn’t have to carry it all down by myself.
Alone at the top of the stairs, I felt scared and helpless as I looked at the mess I had made. Contemplating my next move for a few seconds as I stood on the second step, I knew I had to get down there to clean it all up, get my bags and tote bag, and somehow get them all to my car out in the parking lot. Trying to steady myself, I still held on to the railing as I slowly started to take another step.
But before I could move to the third step, a young man appeared out of nowhere at the bottom of the stairs where my suitcases had landed and the contents of my tote bag had spilled. A bit startled, I stopped to look at him. He looked up at me then quickly got down on the floor and started picking up the stuff, which had spilled from my tote bag. He looked up at me again, smiled and said, “Looks like you’re having a bad day today, ma’am. Don’t worry; I’ll get this for you.” Grateful for his kindness, I smiled at him and thanked him without hesitation.
For some reason, I still didn’t move. As I stood on the second step, another young man suddenly appeared behind me and said in a gentle voice, “I’ll get the other bags for you, ma’am.” I told him, “Oh, thank you so much.” He responded, “No problem, ma’am.” I continued holding onto the railing and, surprisingly, I felt extremely protected as the second young man descended the stairs behind me as if to make sure I didn’t fall. Then seemingly out of the blue, a third young man appeared at the bottom of the stairs. He said, “I’ll get these for her.” The second young man, who escorted me down the stairs, stood by and watched as the first young man picked up the last of my things from the floor and placed them in my tote bag.
The first young man told the third young man, “Are you sure you got her stuff?” The third young man replied, “Yes, I got this. I’ll take them to her car.” The first and second young men promptly vanished. I didn’t even notice or see when they left.
Then the third young man turned to me and said, “Ma’am, where’s your car? I told him it was in front of the building. He picked up both my suitcases and my tote bag and followed me to my car. He asked me if I wanted them in the trunk or back seat. I told him that the back seat would be OK. He loaded them in my car and closed the door. I thanked him again profusely. He responded humbly and with a smile, “You’re welcome, ma’am. Have a nice day.” Then he disappeared, too.
It didn’t dawn on me right away about what had just happened to me. But, I got in my car and just had to sit for a minute to process it all and to let it sink in. I felt like I had gone through an invisible cloud of the freshest, sweetest air. I hesitated to start my car up because I felt surrounded by such a comfort and warmth that I didn’t want to move. After a few minutes, I felt energized enough to start my car for my journey home.
Now, not that it makes a bit of difference to me, but the first and second young men were White. The third young man was Black. In sharing this unusual encounter, I was reluctant to attach an adjective to describe each young man who came to help me that day. But with the current volatile racial situation in the United States, I felt it was necessary to describe my experience of how America works for me. True Americans do random acts of kindness all the time, regardless of skin color or any other difference that some people seem to negatively think sets us apart. These young men showed me the America I know and love.
On another level, I think of these three young men as my American Angels that God sent to help me in my time of need. I believe angels come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. We never know what angels we might meet until God sends them to us when we are in need. I am so grateful to God for sending these three young men to help me that day. As a Black female and Retired Army Veteran living in a foreign country, I know that I am proud and blessed to be an American.
I want to close my story with a quote by the great Arthur Ashe:
“START WHERE YOU ARE. USE WHAT YOU HAVE. DO WHAT YOU CAN.”