Baker: An angel at the ATM?

It is 7 a.m. on a frosty December morning. I step out on my front porch to retrieve a package. Wearing my usual chic, pre-shower ensemble (ancient eyeglasses, black sweats, a too-tight tee shirt bearing the affirmation “I deserve a standing ovation,” accented with white athletic socks and a pair of sandals), I wave at my neighbor, Eula Mae, who is loading her kids into the car to drop them off at school. Even at that hour, she looks fresh as a daisy. I hope my appearance doesn’t startle her too much.

Next, I make a quick dash for the corner ATM. Feeling grouchy as well as disheveled, I continue the December Litany that fills every minute of my life in this season of supposed joy and peace: how the heck am I going to get everything done in time — the shopping, cookies, wrapping? By the time I grab my cash out of the slot, I’ve worked myself into a Grinch-y snit.

Suddenly, I turn and see a stranger standing nearby. Torn between fear that I’m about to be mugged and the even worse fear that someone is getting a close-up glimpse of my early morning attire, I simply stand there. Before I can decide what to say or do, the stranger beams a smile of incredible radiance and warmth upon me.

Somehow, I’m no longer afraid. I don’t even mind that I haven’t yet brushed my teeth. There is something familiar about this woman. She is about 5’8” tall, with curly blond hair and dazzling blue eyes. She wears stiletto heels, black hosiery, a very short skirt and a tight red sweater with a deeply plunging neckline. And that smile.

Finally, I gather my wits and mumble, “Umm, good morning.” The woman says nothing; she simply continues beaming that brilliant smile. After what seems like an eternity, she finally says, in a most melodious voice, “Merry Christmas, dear friend.”

How can she possibly be so serene in late December, I say to myself. Impatient to get home to the insanity that is Christmas, I wonder what she wants. As if hearing my thoughts, the woman smiles even more broadly, causing deep dimples to appear on either side of her red-lipsticked lips. Then, with great compassion, she says, “It’s not insanity. And it’s going to be all right. You’ll see.”

As I look into her eyes, I suddenly begin to believe that everything will get done, or if not, that it doesn’t matter. I want nothing but to continue looking deeply into this woman’s eyes. I feel that she knows everything about me, and that she truly cares about me. Who is she, I thought. What is she?

In response, the woman enfolds me in her arms, in a hug that warms my soul and my heart, as well as my body. As I feel my anxieties melting away, she says quietly, “I am an angel.”

Snapping back into intellectual mode, I fold my arms in front of me and retort, “Yeah, right, and I’m Mother Teresa!” Without a trace of sassiness in her voice, the woman says, gently, “I happen to know Mother Teresa, and you’re right…you ARE Mother Teresa.”

Dumbfounded, I stand there with my mouth hanging open but no words dropping out. Finally, I croak out, “You’re an angel — for real — and I’m Mother Teresa?”

“Yes, Kathy,” she says. “My name is Joy. I guess you expected the flowing, white robe, the fluffy wings and golden halo. We still do whip out the wings and halos occasionally, but angels, like humans, enjoy fashion, so we’ve upgraded the uniform a bit over the years.”

Noting that she called me by name, feeling the warmth of her loving spirit, I realize that she’s telling me the truth. She is, indeed, an angel. But something still bothers me. So I blurt out, “OK, so you’re an angel. But how can you possibly say I’m Mother Teresa?”

Taking my hand, the angel speaks. “Let me explain. As you know, God is nothing more — and nothing less — than the love that is everywhere present in the world. God’s presence fills every being on earth with an endless reservoir of love and peace. Some of us express it fully; many are only vaguely aware of the divinity that we carry within; some, sadly, are not aware of it at all. But the same love that filled Mother Teresa with such incredible faith and generosity fills you and me — and everyone else in the world.”

Even Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Adolph Hitler? I wonder silently. Even (gasp!) the IRS? Telemarketers? “Even them,” Joy says, reading my mind. “Everyone has a bit of goodness within, even if it seems invisible to the human eye. And that’s why you are Mother Teresa, you are Saddam, you are even a telemarketer. And it’s ok.”

As I stand there, absorbing Joy’s words, she begins to disappear. Squeezing my hand one last time, she whispers, “Focus on the love within and around you, and Christmas will be wondrous. There CAN be peace on earth and goodwill to all, whether you get the gifts wrapped in time or not. It starts in your heart, every time you choose love. Hope and peace enter the world, one person at a time, one moment at a time. You will recognize it, just as you recognized me.”

Suddenly, my cat, Tony, is purring in my ear. Wait, what? I look down and realize I’m not wearing my “standing ovation” T-shirt. And I’m not at the ATM! So….this was all a dream? Joy is gone?

As I shuffle off to the kitchen to make some coffee, still half-asleep, I realize that I’m filled with peace. Yes, Joy, I think to myself. I know you. I feel you. And I thank you.

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Kathy Baker is a writer and speaker, a messenger of encouragement who loves to touch hearts and tickle souls with her work. She is the author of “Leaving Adversity Plaza,” and “A Tale of Three Choices: His, Hers, Mine.” She loves hearing from her readers and can be reached at [email protected].