When I was little–like five or six–I met an angel.
I mean, I swear I saw him. I talked to him, even.
And if others hadn’t been around–if my dad didn’t have his hand on my shoulder at the time and if my grandma didn’t talk about it years later after witnessing it along with me–I might have just chalked it up to be my little kid brain running wild. Just like it sometimes did when I pretended up imaginary friends who would join me for pretend lunches with a plastic tea set. But this wasn’t like that.
All of us–me, my parents, and my grandparents, were at the ocean in a motor home right beside the surf when we saw him. He was walking down the beach alone, head hung. We were inside eating sandwiches and oreos when we noticed this man took a turn toward our motor home and eventually tapped on the door.
“I’m sorry–could I just get a drink of water? I’m thirsty” is all I remember that he said. I instantly jumped up and grabbed him a plastic cup of water and a handful of cookies before anyone could move from their seats. The man smiled at me and shut the door. We wanted to ask him if he needed something or was in trouble, but when we stepped outside to yell for him, he was completely gone. No footprints. No tire tracks. And with evening breaking over the beach, there weren’t even any people for miles both ways. It was an angel, I decided.
And I spent much of my childhood and youth remembering that man–and wondering if I’d ever see another one.
And then, eventually, I learned.
I learned that most of the time angels don’t disappear. They don’t always knock on your door at dusk without leaving a footprint. They don’t always come with beams of light or heavenly messages. No, more often than not angels wear work boots. And they take on the form of normal, average fellow human beings who live next door. Or log onto Facebook to offer encouragement. Or wear a stethoscope. Or pick up a phone to dial a number of someone they barely know. They’re everywhere.
We often hear the stereotypical “You can be somebody’s angel” and it sometimes brings the feeling of being special, entitled, righteous, or somehow set apart to do great things. But, you know, it’s really not meant like that. You’re called as an angel of the Lord because, frankly, it’s your responsibility. We live on an earth full of God’s kids. And the only way he can parent them and help them out is to help us to help each other.
I’ve seen more than one angel in my life. In fact–I see them every day. And so do you. I guarantee it. So don’t say you don’t believe in angels, my friend.
I saw an angel when my Dad’s good friend came over one afternoon with his own light to install above the place my Dad would be laying once on hospice. He didn’t want my mom’s hanging chandelier to shine in my dad’s eyes. So he came, without even asking, and brought his own ladder too.
I saw an angel when a man in front of me in traffic jumped out of his car to hand over a jacket to a shivering man on the corner holding a battered sign.
I saw an angel when my mom paid for an elderly woman’s groceries with the small amount of money she had wadded in her hand–and she smiled while doing it.
I saw an angel when a man in the temple sat beside me while I sat alone, offering words of encouragement without even knowing my name.
I saw an angel when a woman at our church came over with spaghetti and french bread after a long day at the hospital, eager to serve it up on plates for us and pour some milk.
I saw an angel when a stranger at the Veterinarian’s office paid my large vet bill, offering a smile and a gracious pat of my hand telling me to “take care of my sweet pet” before leaving to her car.
I saw an angel when my first missionary–who taught my family the blessings of forever families–flew out in the middle of a college semester in Utah to sit with my sick father, reminding us again of eternity.
Angels really are among us, but the thing we tend to forget is that we’re included in that group.
A quote I love and remember from Elder Holland during my first 2008 General Conference is, “But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day.”
You, my friend, are called to lace up your work boots and listen to that little voice that tells you to do something. It might not seem significant–you may never know why you had to do it–but someone will remember it forever. It’s one of the only ways really that Heavenly Father can be an active part of our lives and serve us the way he wants to.
Angels take on so many forms–and my mind wanders from strangers on a desolate beach teaching me service to my father in his recliner, watching his grand kids play, teaching me endurance and love. Angels take on the form of family at your door, friends from church with dinner, and complete strangers in check-out lines.
Angels take on the form of you.