I’ve met an angel. Right here in our Youngstown community. Not far from where I live. He’s no ordinary angel. This angel doesn’t have wings. He doesn’t carry a halo. He doesn’t have the power to change the course of everyday life events. But he’s an angel just the same. Take my word for it.
As angels go, he’s not very big or strong. In fact, in the 12 short years that he’s been on this earth, I don’t think he’s ever had the strength to simply walk. He’s been confined to a motorized wheel chair for most of his life; his body stricken with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
But, he tries to make the best of it. He’s not one to complain. He attends public school, and does well in his studies. He enjoys watching baseball. He’s a Red Sox fan. And, he appreciates his family and friends. He keeps them close. They are his primary concern. For one so young, he has the wisdom to know what truly matters — a wisdom born of a realization that time is a most precious and fleeting gift. But I am sure that it’s difficult for him. I can only imagine his hardships in facing life’s challenges.
If you still doubt my word, ask my seven year old daughter, Bridget. She’ll tell you. She’s met this angel as well. And, each evening before dinner, as we give thanks for all our blessings, she says a prayer for the little angel; a prayer all her own. She calls him Matthew. She has us join hands and close our eyes, and then in a soft voice she says these words; “Dear God, bless Matthew. He really needs your help. Help him to get better, and make him strong. And, God, bless his family because they need your help too.” I open my eyes to see her, her head lowered, her eyes squinting with concentration. And, I listen as the words flow from her heart with the purity of a Sunday morning church bell. She wants Matthew to be like her. She wants him to be able to run with laughter in soft green grass. She fully expects that he will someday. She’s a true believer. Little girls are like that, you know. They are filled with a hope and optimism that is as boundless as a blue summer sky.
A matter of faith
As for myself, I struggle to understand why such a young innocent must suffer in our world. Such understanding completely eludes me. But, in my life I’ve learned that where understanding ends, faith begins. And, I must trust that somewhere, somehow, God’s purpose is fulfilled in some meaningful way in all of this. Perhaps it is the way in which this young boy has taught an older brother to live with compassion for those in need. Perhaps it is in the way in which he has shown a father, and a mother, and an extended family how to love unconditionally. Perhaps it is in the way in which he has helped a caring stepmother learn how to serve another, in the most difficult of circumstances, with a warm generosity of spirit. Perhaps in all of these ways, and in a thousand more yet unknown, purpose resides.
Yes, I’ve met an angel. Right here in our community. And, I think some evening when I arrive home from work, I’ll have my own prayer to recite before dinner. I’m sure my youngest daughter will oblige me. And, just like my Bridget I’ll ask that we join hands, bow our heads, and close our eyes. And then, I’ll speak these words; “God, help us to be more like Matthew. Help us to carry the burdens of this life with courage and grace. Help us to be strong when we are weak. Help us to love when this world is harsh and unkind. And, thank you for sending us Matthew; help him to become well soon. For in his brief years on this earth, he has brought more goodness and love to our world than most others bring in a lifetime.”
Yes, I think that will be a fine prayer for our little angel. On this Labor Day weekend, I think that will be a fine prayer for all the little angels of our world.
X Bobovnyik is a lawyer who lives in Youngstown and writes occasionally about the people he meets and the lives they live.