Angels in Sensible Shoes

The night was cold, getting colder by the minute, forecast to drop into the 20s. In a rush, I hadn’t bothered to wear a coat, a decision I already regretted.
I wanted to make two quick stops _ one at the market, the other for take-out _ before hurrying back to have dinner and start working on a column that was due the next morning.
For me, there’s nothing like a deadline to remind me of things I need to do _ like pick up a 12-pack of Diet Coke.
At the market, I circled the parking lot to score a space near the entrance. Then I pulled my sweater tight about me and sprinted for the door.
I swear I didn’t see her until it was almost too late. She was standing on the curb _ a little bird-like woman in a raincoat and kerchief, wobbling back and forth in sensible shoes, holding two bags of groceries, one in each hand, and peering up the street, as if waiting for a ride.
I spotted her just in time to stop inches shy of bulldozing her out into the street.
“Oh,” I said, “I’m so sorry!”
When she turned, I realized she was younger than I thought. She studied me for a moment, as if she should know me. Then her blue eyes clouded, blinking with confusion, and she went back to watching for her ride.
I hurried inside, profoundly glad I hadn’t plowed her down.
The shopping that should have taken 10 minutes turned into 30, partly because the Diet Coke was on sale (“buy more than you can carry and get a few more free”) and I couldn’t decide if the savings was worth the effort, let alone, the strain on my back.
At check-out, I tried to pick the shortest line, and it turned out to be the longest, which happens to me so often that I am tempted to pick the longest, just to see how long it takes.
When I finally left the store, dragging my load of Diet Coke, I didn’t see the woman until I pulled out. She had moved down to the other entrance, and was still tottering on the curb, peering into passing cars.
That’s when I heard The Voice. I suspect you’ve heard it, too. It tends to tell me things I don’t want to hear _ to do something I don’t want to do, or avoid certain things that I want.
Sometimes it sounds strangely like my mother. Just once, I wish it would tell me something fun, like “Here, just for you, are the winning numbers for a Mega Millions lottery ticket.”
Not this time. This time it said, “Give the poor soul a ride.”
When I heard it, I had already driven past her onto a one-way exit street. To go back, I’d have to leave the shopping center, go down several lights, make a U-turn and come back.
I did not want to do that.
Also, she looked harmless, but if I let her in my car, how was I to know she wouldn’t come at me like a spider monkey?
That is but one example of the kinds of questions I can always think of to try to reason with The Voice. But The Voice is never reasonable. It just keeps whispering “be kind,” “offer grace,” “do the right thing.”
Fine. But first I decided to go pick up the take-out. Then I’d swing back by and if she was still there, spider monkey or not, I would give her a ride.
Imagine my relief 20 minutes later to come back and find her gone. Then relief turned to guilt as I considered the “what ifs.”
What if she had tried to walk home and gotten hit by a car?
What if she were an angel on a mission to save the world by finding one good person and I had blown it for all of us?
What if I had given her a ride and she had given me a winning Mega Millions ticket?
And here’s the biggest “what if” of all: What if next time when I hear The Voice, I just say yes?


  1. Sharon

    Took a while to find this column on your web site. I just read it in my local paper (Herald-Standard, Uniontown Pa. 15401.) only it was under the heading : “Conscientiousness not without effort”. Anyway ……

    God bless you. For a number of things, not the least of which, for knowing that I’m not crazy, or, if I am, that I’m not alone.

    I’ve had several similar experiences, a few just recently, and some, over the past couple of years or so. I don’t know why it’s only recently that “the voice” is getting harder and harder to ignore. I’m 58. Don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I only know that I’ve heard that “Voice” plenty in my lifetime and for the most part I was usually able to ….. just ignore it. Or, more precisely, to rationalize it into submission to my own will rather than vis-a-vis. But not so much lately.

    Undetectable evolutionary forces? An out pouring of Spirit/Grace? Concern that as I age I will find myself ever less independent and thus find it is myself that has become the subject of “there, but for the grace of God, go I”? Or is it just a maturation of wisdom? Can’t say. Don’t know.

    Only know that each time I’ve heeded that “Voice”, no matter the costs in time, or convenience, or even money, no matter the costs to me personally, the compensations have always been more than the costs. More peace. More contentment. More comfort. More sense of worth. A sense that “yes Lord, I have been blessed way beyond the demands of justice, and yes Lord, I’ve wasted, really really wasted, the lions share of those blessings, and yes Lord, if I were You I’d have given up on me LONG ago, but see, see here, just this once I’ve found a way to say Thank You!” These little post-deed reflections sometimes even end in tears. But if you have to cry, boy-o-boy, these are the kind of tears you can treasure. I could stand these kinds of tears every dang day – if only I had the courage to lay it ALL on the line. Which I don’t.

    So thanks for the commentary.

    I may be off base, or even out of line, if so, forgive me, but if I’m reading between the lines correctly, the primary motivation for this piece had more to do with the times you didn’t listen to the “Voice” than with this time when you did listen. And so it goes that YOU need to know that YOU aren’t crazy, or if you are, that you aren’t alone either. And thus this friendly (and timely?) reminder: Sharon, it’s never what you were, or even what you are, it’s what you are becoming. And that, I believe, is tied closely to listening to that voice. You’re listening. You can only become more beautiful.

    You new friend (if only in spirit),
    Larry Burd

  2. Sue Sellers says

    Sharon, I too, had a voice experience this week. I made a chicken pot pie for my family the other night. I made it the night before we had planned to have it. As I was finishing up that voice, that I have heard so many times, said, “This pie will not be for your family.” I thought about this and finished, wondering what that meant. The next morning at our weekly Bible Study it was announced that one of our leaders was sick at home with “walking pneumonia” At that moment that voice said,”There goes your pie!” Of course I knew what I would do and delivered the pie to my friend that afternoon. God speaks in mysterious ways. Things like this happen frequently if you listen closely.

  3. Joni Mushrush says

    Hi Sharon,
    I love your column and the messages contained within it. This column regarding The Voice is a message to us all. I struggle with this on occasion. I live in a rural area where the homeless are not frequently seen. When I encounter someone who is holding a sign or appears to be down and out, I don’t exactly know what to do. The Voice tells me that I need to do something but I never know what that something is. I would help anyone who is in need, but am frequently skeptical that those who are asking for a handout will use any money given to fuel a drug or alcohol habit. Giving someone a ride scares me as I have heard many stories of people being injured or killed as a result of doing a good deed. I guess The Voice is in conflict with my inner sensibility. Thanks for bringing the issue out. It is indeed a struggle.

  4. Debbie Fortune says

    During my mom’s life, she met an angel in the form of a young mother with a small child in a carseat. That young mother saw my mom at dusk standing in front of Mervyn’s on Blackstone in Fresno where a cab driver had dropped her off stating he didn’t go to Clovis from Chuckchansi after my mom had missed the excursion bus back to her assisted-living complex (mind you, this was the time before everyone had a cell phone). As the young mother was leaving the parking lot, with the car running, she pulled up to inquire if my mom needed help. After hearing what had happened, the young mother insisted on taking her home. On the ride, the two of them had a conversation of confession; my mom about being scared to accept a ride from a stranger for the first time in her life, and the young mother about being leary of giving a ride to a stranger not knowing if harm would come to herself and/or her child. They both chuckled as they discovered each of them was harmless; my mom missed her bus in the hills to then find herself at the mercy of a heartless cab driver who dropped her off miles from home, and the young mother simply listened to her heart as she stepped out in faith for a 76-year-old lady standing alone in the dark looking lost. At the end of the ride with objection from the young mother, my mom insisted and slipped money into the young mother’s hand, thanking her for coming to the “rescue.” That young mother was an angel! I hope I never lose the chance to be an angel to someone in need. Thanks, Sharon, for helping us look at life through a new looking glass!

  5. Debbie Graham says


    Thank you once again for hitting home! My dear Mother-In-Law who passed over 5 years ago made me a firm believer in what she used to refer to as “That Little Voice” I’ve heard it a million times & like you have had remorse at times I did not listen to or act upon. I do believe in angels in disguise!

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