Angel Disguises

The bookends of this weekend have left me wondering how I have been doubting God’s care for my journey in such a significant way lately.

I went out of town to visit my best friend from college who now lives in San Francisco. On the train ride to the airport shuttle on Friday, I was approached by a scruffy curly haired middle-aged man. He said hello and I didn’t immediately respond, and he proceeded to ask why I was being unfriendly. I started to feel concerned because of body language and before anything else happened, a more harmful looking man came up to us.

To my utter surprise he ended up interceding! In the most repeatedly deliberate yet calm way, physically moving between us and telling the other man to “leave the lady alone.” He did not move until the other man went away.

I said “thank you” and wasn’t sure if he heard me; he himself was already walking away down to the other end of the train. When we arrived at the stop I wanted to find him to make sure he heard me, but he was gone.

Flash forward to this morning after a wonderfully adventurous and relaxing weekend in the city. I had to wake up at 2:45am to be ready for the Super Shuttle pickup to the airport. Halfway through I realized that my friend’s license and credit card were in my wallet!

She wouldn’t pick up the calls and texts that I was leaving for her. It was also too late for the shuttle to turn around; some other passengers had a 5:30am flight they would risk missing.

I hopped off at the next pickup and went to a line of nearby cabs. One of the men in the shuttle came out running after me because I had left my wallet on the seat… whoops. He told me, “Be careful.” I was a little embarrassed, but grateful.Just then another older man who was there echoed my thoughts: “That man is a generous man.”

I come up to the line of cabs and none of them want to take me because they say they are waiting for people at the hotel who are going to the airport. I walk around not finding any other cabs and turn around to explain that I eventually have to get there too, so the first driver in line agrees to take me.

I was brought back to memories of my time in Vietnam when I rode cabs there, not knowing at all where I was and if the driver was really taking me where I needed to go. My strategy here as it was then was to just talk to the driver and hear his story.

I had no idea what I was in for. This man was from Ethiopia. He left his home 10 years ago to come here and because the Ethiopian government is a dictatorship is not allowed to return. Again, because he left he is not allowed to return.

It broke my heart to hear not only this but that he can’t really talk on the phone to his family or write letters for security reasons, although email is ok. He barely makes enough to live here – $900/month for a 1 bedroom in SF. That’s a steal but I imagine knowing how expensive it is in the city what his living conditions must be like. On top of that, he sends money back to his family in Ethiopia. Again, due to security reasons he cannot wire money and so has to give to people to give to his family. There has to be a lot of trust there.

I shared some of my story too and we both discovered that we are Catholic, and so were able to reflect on God working in our lives as well. We agreed that living with faith can make things more difficult in this kind of culture, but still better and totally worth it.

Arriving at the airport and waiting in the security line, I really wanted to just burst into tears at this overwhelming sense of God’s presence through these people. Perhaps it wasn’t an accident that I had to hop in that cab to hear this man’s story; it puts things in so much perspective yet again as I head into the week.

I’ve recently been wondering about my direction in life.. I know God cares and loves me but some uncomfortable moments still presented themselves. Of course I have learned to sit still when those happen (because getting uncomfortable is how you grow) but these little yet momentous experiences have blown my doubts out of the water.

God is here. He is present. He is with us. Walking with us. Working through this journey with us. And I could not be more profoundly, utterly, completely grateful.

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