In the past, I didn’t always talk or write about the odd occurrences that happened in my life. I was always concerned that people would think that I was crazy or lying or “different.” It used to embarrass me, but I don’t really worry about that any more. I am proud that my life has always been somewhat unusual. I like having strange things happen. I love those “out of the blue” moments that make me wonder about life, miracles, and magic. I have had incredible visions of angels who bring me messages and I have seen random ghosts drifting aimlessly beside me. But the sudden, strange encounters I have with other people really inspire me. I experienced another odd occurrence just last Saturday.
Up until that very moment, I hadn’t been feeling very comfortable or proud of myself. I was feeling ashamed and frustrated. I know I am not perfect and I certainly make my share of mistakes. That doesn’t bother me. I can always correct any errors I make and learn from the experience. But there are times when it is difficult for me to forgive myself. For instance, I can be snappish and disagreeable when I am physically not feeling well. When I am tired or hungry, I admit that I am not the most pleasant person to be around. I don’t like myself when I behave this way. And sometimes I have a hard time forgiving myself for basically being human.
Last week, I was just feeling as if I didn’t fit in anywhere. I felt like an absolute outcast. I have always felt “different,” but for the last few days, I felt my situation more acutely. My need to connect with other people was not being satisfied and my aloneness didn’t feel good this time. I felt as if I was zigging while everyone else was zagging. I was completely out of synch with the people around me. I was continually saying the wrong things and being in the wrong place and feeling the wrong emotions and coming to all the wrong conclusions. I don’t know if it was because of my personality or my attitude or my beliefs. Instead of embracing my uniqueness like I normal do, this time I just felt lost and worthless.
So by last weekend, I was feeling down and depressed. Maybe I was just overly exhausted. My schedule can get crazy. My main plan for this year was to take a hiatus from teaching and concentrate on writing full time. But desperately needing health insurance, I took a job at a department store. I work at the store early in the day, teach a few non-credit classes at the community college, and write late into the night. I don’t know why but I am most creative at night and can be up until 2 or 3 am finishing up a single piece of work. This schedule is mandatory but leaves me exhausted and cranky to people when I really want to connect. It’s a vicious cycle that I know only I can break. So Saturday, I decided to make a change in my attitude. It actually wasn’t hard since the store was so busy that day. It was the last weekend before Thanksgiving and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday made the day a little more exciting.
That afternoon, I was trying to complete my stocking work while assisting customers and mainly directing them around the store. I suddenly noticed an older man wondering around lost in the middle of aisle 10 in the grocery department. He had short, gray hair and a kind, clean-shaven face. He wore tattered jeans and a brown leather jacket.
I approached the man and smiled at him. “Sir, can I help you with something?”
He looked at me with a shy grin and said, “I just need to put this back and I can’t remember where I got it?” He held out a box of Lean Cuisine to me.
“Oh, that’s fine,” I assured him. “I’ll take care of it for you.”
I reached out my hand and took the box away from him. That should have been the end of the encounter but then something strange happened. The man told me thank you but he didn’t walk away. He just stood there for a moment and stared at me. His response caused me to behave in the same way. I just stood awkwardly for a moment and stared back. I was waiting to see if he had any other questions or problems. But was fascinated by the fact that he didn’t move. He didn’t make a single movement now. His body stood mannequin still and straight, not a single muscle in his body moved a twitch. He stood as if paralyzed in the moment. His expression did not change, but his eyes began to glow. I was captivated by his unusual eyes that slowly began to fade to a light gray and almost dissolved to a ghostly white. An unusual spark began to glow behind his irises. And then the man said to me, “Don’t worry, Jamie. There are people just like you in heaven.”
My mouth fell open in surprise. Why would he say that to me? How could he possibly have known that I had been feeling like an outcast for the past several days?
Then the man turned and started to walk away. I kind of made a fool of myself then because I suddenly giggled. Yes, I actually giggled. It was just a nervous reaction to his words. Then the statement “God bless you” came tumbling out of my mouth. I don’t know why I felt compelled to say this. It just seemed like the appropriate response. The man turned and looked at me again with his gray/white eyes and said, “And God has blessed you” before he walked behind one of the short, 3-foot wide fixtures that sat in the center of the main aisle. As I thought about his words, I just stood there watching him as he walked behind the fixture….I waited…and waited…but he never came out the other side. There was only one way in and out behind this fixture. There was nowhere else for him to go. He could only walk around the fixture. Wondering about this, I walked over and peeked around the metal shelves of the fixture on the far side. The man wasn’t there! He wasn’t behind the fixture at all. He was just gone!
I don’t know what had happened to the man, and sometimes, as I think over the situation, I wonder if he had even been human at all. My mind sometimes pictures him as an angel, a messenger of God. For he had brought me a message I needed to hear. I know now that even if I am an outcast, God has not forsaken me. I know now that even though I may struggle with my place on earth, there are people who cared about me in heaven. I am never alone. God and his many angels will always be with me and all people who believe.