Sweet souls around us watch us still, Press nearer to our side;
Into our thoughts, into our prayers, With gentle helpings glide.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
"HE OTHER WORLD"
Angels seem to be helpful in giving directions. Consider
nineteen-year-old Charlotte, a student some years ago at Pacific
Union College in Angwin, a small town about seventy-five miles
north of San Francisco. Charlotte had a part-time job as
housekeeper in a town some distance from campus. She traveled
back and forth by bus, grateful for the income that made tuition
and other expenses easier to meet.
One night, returning to Angwin tired and a bit careless,
Charlotte boarded the wrong bus. It was too late to get off once
she discovered what had happened. Eventually the big vehicle
pulled into a busy terminal in San Francisco. Charlotte was
worried. She was not where she was supposed to be, and to make
matters worse, she was surrounded late at night by strangers.
Some sailors, recently returned from overseas, were leering at
her. A drunk attempted to begin a conversation. She hurriedly
But where should she go? How would she find a bus to Angwin,
that obscure little town, in this big building with its complex
of tunnels? Unused to city life, Charlotte looked for someone to
help her, but there was not another woman on the platform where
the buses were loading. No policeman was in sight. The
information booth bore a sign: CLOSED FOR THE NIGHT. There were
only strange men to be seen, derelicts moving about in the
Then it came to her. The college's dean of women had made
sure all the students memorized Psalm 34: "The angel of the Lord
encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."
"You never know," the dean said, "when you might need it."
Quickly Charlotte found a ladies' room, went in, locked the door
behind her, and fell to her knees. "Dear God," she prayed, "I'm
lost and afraid. Please help me find my way home. According to
your Holy Word, deliver me. Amen."
Charlotte opened the door and stepped into the main area of
the terminal again. Just then a young man passed in front of her.
She noticed immediately that he was carrying what appeared to be
a large black Bible.
A Bible! Charlotte thought. Maybe he's one of the Pacific
Union students returning to school! In any event, she decided to
follow him. Surely a man with a Bible would be trustworthy.
He led her through several long corridors, took an underpass
to another part of the terminal, and hurried up a flight of
stairs from a dimly lit concourse to a remote loading platform.
Never could Charlotte have discovered this circuitous route by
herself, she realized. Then all at once, there it was - a bus
with big letters on the front that spelled ANGWIN! And it was
about to pull out. The last one out of San Francisco that night.
How fortunate for her!
Still close behind him, Charlotte followed the young man
onto the bus. Only one seat remained, and he turned his back to
her, as if to speak to the bus driver, and allowed her to pass
him to the seat. Charlotte sank down, her eyes still on the
stranger, relieved and grateful, and somewhat amazed ... for the
driver did not seem to see the young man at all!
In a moment, the young man turned and got off the bus. No
one was paying any attention to him. Only Charlotte watched
through the window, her eyes following the young man for a few
feet when, although he was in clear sight, he simply vanished.
Like a light going out, Charlotte thought.
As the bus driver closed the door and the big vehicle pulled
out of the station, Charlotte shot a heartfelt prayer of thanks
to heaven. The Word of God does not fail, she knew. She had been
delivered by an angel of the Lord.
Bus trips and collegians played a part in Suzanne's
experience too. It was a typical Minnesota winter, snowy and
freezing. Suzanne's seven-year-old daughter, Jennifer (not their
real names), needed to visit a specialist in downtown
Minneapolis. Suzanne never felt comfortable driving on slick
streets, and there already had been several substantial
snowfalls, so she had decided to use the Metro system for the
first time. "I was apprehensive, and I prayed that I would know
where to go," she says. "My daughter was already nervous and
didn't want to see another doctor. It was cold - I just wanted
the day to go smoothly."
When Suzanne and Jennifer reached the bus stop, there was
one rider waiting, a cheerful girl of about eighteen.
Suzanne smiled at her and asked, "By any chance, would you
be going downtown?"
"Yes, I'm going to class at the University of Minnesota," the
young woman told her. Suzanne had thought the university was in a
completely different area, but, admittedly, her sense of
direction was doubtful. "I'm from a small town just south of
here," the girl explained. "I got a ride to the bus stop today
from a friend."
Suzanne warmed to the girl's friendliness, while noticing
that she seemed shabbily dressed. "Her heavy overcoat was really
out of date, and I remember thinking that I hoped someday she'd
have a good enough job to buy better clothes if she wanted them,"
Suzanne recalls. "I told her, about our journey, and my concern
about getting us there."
Without hesitation, the girl explained bus protocol - having
proper change, pulling the cord a block from where Suzanne wanted
to stop, and then she added, "Actually, since I'm going near
there, why don't I just ride with you and make sure you find the
"Oh, I couldn't let you do that," Suzanne protested. "Wouldn't
the trip be out of your way?" Surely the university couldn't be
"It's no problem;" the young woman assured her.
The bus came, the trio boarded and chatted comfortably on
the way downtown. Suzanne was feeling more relaxed, less guilty
about accepting her companion's help. She would certainly do the
same for a stranded stranger, so it didn't seem all that unusual.
But she had been quite fortunate to meet this charming young
person. The three got off the bus at the proper stop and walked
toward the Nicollet Mall, about two blocks away. Suzanne knew the
address of the Medical Arts Building, but it was hard locating
street numbers on the structures. They had unknowingly walked
past their destination, crossed half a street, and were on a
pedestrian safety walk when Suzanne realized that the buildings
on the other side were too small to be what they wanted.
Suzanne glanced back. "Look!" she said. "We just passed it.
There it is - see the name carved into its side?"
The girl laughed. "It sure is!"
Suzanne and Jennifer turned back toward the building, while
their companion continued on in the same direction. Just a second
or two passed before Suzanne realized the girl was leaving them,
and she turned to thank her.
Traffic was sparse and few pedestrians were out on this cold
day, but their cheerful companion had completely disappeared. "My
last view of her," Suzanne recalls, "was with her arm raised as
if in farewell, as though, even before Jennifer and I turned to
look at the Medical Arts Building, she knew we had found our
Later, Suzanne discovered that the University of Minnesota
campus wasn't anywhere near downtown Minneapolis. Nor would a
student get there via the route they took.
But as Suzanne realized, the "student" had a different
destination all along.
Entered on this Website January 2008