By Jake Sapon, CC Storyteller
At our gathering in Farmington, we talk about Angels.
In Hebrew, the word for angel (malach) literally means “messenger.” Thus, an angel is not necessarily a divine being, but is rather anyone who, at exactly the right place and time, carries a message. It is said that each of us here on earth is an angel, carrying a message to be delivered at a specific time and place, though we might not ever know when our message has been delivered.
Kāli opens the discussion with a story of a time when she became an angel for someone else– woman at a train station whose purse had been robbed. One by one, our guests share stories of when, in times of need, total strangers came through to help— fixing broken cars, returning lost objects, offering simple moments of kindness in a time of distress. One guest, an older woman, remarks how sad it is to her that the world is less trusting than when she grew up. People, she strongly believes, are fundamentally good.
My week has been filled with angels. And– I would like to believe– that there have been times this week when we have been angels for others as well. Brought together through coincidence, synchronicity, fate, divine will, or whatever you may wish to call it, our time in the Southwest has been characterized by a magical string of happenstance encounters, leaving me feeling as if we are always exactly in the right place at exactly the right time, learning and teaching exactly what we are meant to be.
In Santa Fe, our angels were named Robert and Leela. After being served quesadillas made with hash green chile, Robert and I stay up for hours playing music— Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, Jackson Brown, The Beatles, Neil Young and more—I feel as if our respective passions for music are bouncing off each other like light between two mirrors. I go to bed with a feeling of joy that fills every part of my body. In the morning, over omelets served with whole wheat bread and fresh raspberry jam, Robert and Leela tell the story of how they came to be together through their meeting in a yogic community of shared spiritual values.
In Albuquerque, at the recommendation of my brother, we stop into a local bookstore called “Bookworks.” I had contacted the store earlier by email, and they had agreed to take three of our books on consignment. The store clerk takes a copy of the book in his hand, turns it over, and asks, “Do you have any more of these? I’m going to a play therapy conference this weekend.” We give him five more.
Something leads us to the right time and the right place. We trust in the power of stories to have the capacity to heal, maybe even to change the world. A woman in Farmington, hearing a story about family, remarks that she will think differently about how to talk to her brother when she picks up the phone. How do you know when you have become an angel for someone else?
Arriving in Silver City, our angels were named Ravi, Jorge, and Sofia…
Upon arriving, my state of being reminds me of the feeling of exhalation. A letting go. Their space, newly redecorated, emits tranquility and peace, smelling of aromatic spices and filled with green plants. We are served a stew of vegetables and salad, and before we eat, we hold our hands in a blessing and prayer, thanking the source of our food. At night, I again stay up playing music, improvising with Jorge on the didgeridoo, Kali on the Violin, and Kali’s cousin Kenny, our new traveling companion, on the recorder. Feeling the deep pulse of the didgeridoo, I approach the guitar in a completely new way; finding myself attuned to the percussive qualities of the instrument, I feel my entire conception of the instrument renewed.
Our trip has begun, like a poem, to rhyme in metered verse. A message received again— music is my love. It’s time to reconnect with my spirituality—the source of my food, my body, my connection. A message again— pay forward these gifts of hospitality. Just as you have been a stranger and been welcomed, now go and welcome the stranger into your own home.
Another bookstore in Silver City. A man walks in, distraught. He’s lost a book that he says means the world to him, and he’s hoping he can replace it. I ask him what book. He tells me that it’s a book of daily practices, inspired by bible verses, each with a story along with it from the life of the book’s author, coach Tony Dungy. I try to catch Kali’s eye; we ourselves are carrying a book of daily practices and stories.
“I have a gift for you,” Kali says. “Perhaps this can fill the void left by the loss of your book.” She hands him a copy of “I am Compassionate Creativity.”
“You wrote this?” the man says. “I’ve never met an author before! Can you sign it for me?”
He goes on to tell us about his story, his own struggles and challenges working in the mines of Silver City. “It’s books like these that got me through those tough times,” he says.
Can I let myself believe it? We are now angels too.
We now travel with two new Angels—Kali’s cousin Kenny, and a man in Silver City named John– an Irishman who grew up in Africa—a facilitator of healing and a musician. Kenny and John both stand out to me as two of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met.
They shower us with gifts—fresh, organic food from the co-op in Silver City, gas, deliciously cooked meals in John’s camper, and some particularly colorful new clothes. The four of us have arrived at the hot springs in Safford, AZ, and in the water of the springs I feel elevated, calm, centered, and purified. At night, over a meal hosted in John’s camper of fresh steamed vegetables and Quinoa, the conversation turns to our relationships with money. Kenny shares his own philosophy—when in need, be able to receive, and when you have abundance, let it flow. “It’s fear,” I say, “that stops me from giving. It’s shame that stops me from receiving.”
The four of us move on to Bisbee, now camped outside of Kenny, Michael, and Danielle’s environmentally sustainable earthbag home. The house is designed so that it needs no air conditioning, even in the Arizona heat, with energy coming from the sun and water from the rain. Here, I feel in touch with the land and with myself. Watching the sun rise and set each day across the wide desert sky, I feel a part of something far greater than myself.
A message from these two angels—Success is not defined by money, or by fame, or achievement. Success means connection. With other people, with the land, with the love and generosity that can, if allowed, pour freely from our souls.
When have you encountered an angel? What did you learn or receive from this person?
When have you been an angel? What have you given?