True Stories of Children's Encounters with Angels
by Joan Wester Anderson
When nine-year-old Buddy awakened on that Saturday before dawn, there was almost two feet of snow on the ground. However, he wasn't about to let a little bad weather keep him from a most important job. Buddy had just become an altar boy, and was assigned to serve the 6 a.m. mass today.
When Buddy came downstairs, however, his mother was still in her bathrobe. "The roads haven't been plowed, honey," she said, peering out at the dark deserted street. "I can't drive you to church--we'd get stuck. Maybe you'd better stay home."
"No, Mom." Buddy was firm. After all, a promise was a promise. "I can walk, honest. It'll be fun."
Buddy's mother looked doubtful. It was almost two miles to church. But their little Ohio town was peaceful and safe. What harm could possibly come to her son? And she was proud that he took his responsibilities so seriously. "Well..." she smiled. "Be sure to bundle up."
At first, since his route was downhill, breaking a path through the new snow was fun. Buddy hiked down the middle of Main Street in the dim dawn, with no people or cars around. It seemed like a winter wonderland, all quiet and clean. But as Buddy kept walking, the drifts seemed higher and higher. His legs began to ache. He longed to reach the church so someone there would help him in, and sit him near a heater to warm his quickly-freezing fingers and toes.
Finally, Buddy came to the front of the church. Just a few more steps.. Dismayed, he realized that the snow on the church stairs was completely undisturbed. He was the first one there. But the journey had taken so much longer than he'd expected. Shouldn't the priest or other people have arrived by now? Using the side of his boot, Buddy pushed the snow aside, until he could finally drag open the front door.
At last! He fell inside, then stared at the cold empty interior. By the light of the just-rising sun, he could see the clock above the door. It was already 6:15. He had been the only one to struggle through the snow. There would be no mass today.
Buddy knelt in a back pew for a moment, where he began to realize just how worn out he was. His legs throbbed from pushing through the drifts, and now he would have to do it all over again. "God," Buddy murmured, "please help me get home." Slowly he turned and went out. The way home seemed endless, each step a struggle. For every little distance that Buddy gained, he seemed to fall back even farther, pushed by the rising wind and his own exhaustion. Although it was now light out, there was still no one about, no one to ask for shelter or help. Buddy had to go uphill, and he looked with dread at the long distance remaining.
He wasn't going to make it. He knew that now for sure. His legs had been pushing through almost-waist-high snow for hours, and all he wanted to do was to lie down, to end this terrible journey and close his eyes...
Suddenly there was someone behind him. A large man, with tender eyes, was looking down at Buddy, smiling at him. Surely Buddy should have heard the sound of the man's boots crunching the snow as he'd walked up from behind. But there hadn't been a sound. Buddy stared at the stranger. There was a scarf hiding most of his face, but oddly, Buddy felt no fear of him. The man said nothing. He simply picked Buddy up from behind, lifted him over his head, set Buddy on his shoulders and began to walk.
How strong he was! And where had he come from? Buddy felt exhilarated yet peaceful, all at the same time. It seemed that he and the man were wrapped in a circle all their own, an awesome connection that Buddy didn't want to break by asking questions. Yet he would have to tell the stranger where he lived. But as they approached the house, the stranger turned and walked right down Buddy's long front sidewalk. How had he known?
They reached the porch, and the man silently lowered his head and helped Buddy slide off his shoulders. "Thank you, sir." Buddy immediately turned around for a last view. But there was no one behind him. No one at all. And although Buddy could see footprints up the sidewalk to where he now stood, there were no tracks leading away from the porch.
Buddy stood in astonishment, surveying the scene. His rescuer had gone as quietly as he'd arrived. It took awhile before Buddy realized who the stranger really was. And he hasn't seen him again. "But I don't need to," Buddy says today. "I know he's still here, ready to help me again when I need him."