A few years ago angels were hot.
We had TV shows devoted to angels. Films about angels. Books. Greeting cards. Everywhere you looked, you encountered fact and fiction about people who’d been contacted by angels and how it changed their lives.
Lately, though, the angelic hullabaloo has died down. The Web sites are still there, and I hear a couple of networks are talking about bringing out new “Stairway to Heaven”-style shows. But it’s not as pervasive as it was before. Angel sightings have dropped way down, with their space being filled by Bigfoot sightings and UFO abductions.
Yesterday, however, something happened that brought angels into my mind all over again.
No, it wasn’t the e-mail I got from Wanda the Arkansas Angel, chatting about what was new down her way. (Good news. Bad news. Births. Deaths. Things getting better. Things getting worse. Business as usual, you might say.)
It was lunch.
At the Mexican restaurant across the street from the courthouse.
Gwen and I were having an unusual lunch there. Unusual not because of anything they were serving â€” or we were or weren’t eating â€” but because Lyndie the Waitress wasn’t there. She’d had the nerve to take the day off, and I admit it. I was thrown off-balance as a result.
“The place doesn’t feel the same,” I said. “The atmosphere’s different. No one said, ‘Hi, Larry! Hi, Miz Gwen!’ when we came in. No one said, ‘Iced tea for Gwen and hot coffee for Larry, right?’”
Gwen sipped from her glass of iced tea. Pointed to my cup of hot coffee. “Somebody did say, ‘What would you like to drink?’” she pointed out. “And we’re drinking it, aren’t we?”
“Sure. But no one’s saying, ‘How’re you feeling today, Mizz Gwen? Don’t forget your cell phone on the table again, Larry.’ It doesn’t feel right.”
Gwen smiled that smile wives and lovers smile when they think we’re a little nuts but also a little cute for being that way, and I decided to enjoy my lunch without thinking of Lyndie again.
But then another customer came in. A man in a Razorbacks baseball cap. The Waitress Who Wasn’t Lyndie came over to give him a menu, and I saw the smile on his face fade. “Where’s Lyndie?” he said.
“She’s not working today.”
“She always works Mondays.”
The Waitress Who Wasn’t Lyndie shrugged. The man let out a sigh. Spoke to no one. Everyone. Himself. “It’s not the same when Lyndie isn’t here. She makes me feel like someone cares about me. No matter how rough my day’s been, after I walk out of here I feel strong again.”
Gwen’s face took on a “Eureka!” look. She leaned forward to me. “I get it now. You guys are right. Lyndie always feels so eager it makes everybody else â€” even me â€” want to plunge right into things, too.”
I’ve been thinking about people like Lyndie since Gwen said that. People we see all the time, but don’t know all that well, or even complete strangers who just happen to be in the right place at the right time to ease what ails us regardless of what’s going on â€” right or wrong â€” in their own lives.
I remember the guy who came up to me one day as I was gazing out at the ocean sadly wondering what the point of my existence was. “You’ve got to go with it,” he said out of nowhere. “All of us do.”
And because of him, I did.
And the time I was that guy for an elderly woman sitting on a bench in the Paradise Town Square, looking like she was about to cry. “I’ll bet your grandchildren love you,” I said for no reason I knew of as I walked by. A week later she stopped me in the market. “I want to thank you for your kind words,” she said. “I was doing poorly, and you made me feel alive.”
Gwen’s had times like that in her life also. So have all the friends I’ve talked to about it. People rising out of their suffering because of someone else. Or helping other people do the same without even knowing that’s what’s going down.
So here, for whatever it’s worth, is what I think about angels:
I think we’re all angels â€” each and every one of us shuffling across this planet â€” just for helping another human being or two get through the day.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.