My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
One Thanksgiving Day, my whole family was together. We had little to eat, but we were happy. We had indoor plumbing, with a toilet that flushed most of the time, and one of those party-line black rotary-dial phones. Our house was small, cramped, and in need of repair, but we were together.
We didn’t have any food on this Thanksgiving Day except for some greens. Then, as my mother started to prepare the greens, there was a knock at the door. No one moved for several seconds. It felt as if time had stopped. Finally, somebody opened the door, to reveal a White woman holding a bag of groceries. She had red hair and manicured fingernails.
My mother was never a racist, but she always said we had to be careful around White people. And so we all just stood there looking at each other. I wondered about the White woman’s motives. I wondered if she was going to turn us over to the landlord. We were always concerned that the landlord would demand more rent if he knew that ten people were living in a house that was meant for four or five. Why did she come on Thanksgiving Day?
One of my brothers went to the door and received the bag. We couldn’t believe it! The bag was full of bread, all kinds of stuffing, fresh duck, and smoked oysters in a can. We had never tasted canned oysters, which we assumed had to be something very special. We couldn’t afford oysters, in the can or otherwise. Clearly, the woman had just been to the grocery store, purchased these groceries, and brought them to our house.
Nobody knew who this woman was. It had been our understanding that when White people knocked on the door, it was the police, a gas leak, a fireman, a bill collector, or just plain trouble. Out of all the poor people in our neighborhood, however, somebody with a bag of groceries was on our doorstep. To us she seemed like an angel of mercy. She gave us the groceries with a warm smile, and then suddenly she was gone.
There I stood, a young angry Black man with a big afro and a mean look on my face. But now I was confounded. This knock on the door by a mysterious woman was the first sign that God’s amazing grace was rushing in to help me overcome the power of race in my life. Looking back, I realize that this woman was on an assignment from God. As she came to my family, God’s grace came into my life through her unforeseen act of kindness.
My mom and sisters cooked up a great meal, and we all ate until we were filled. It was a memorable day, never to be forgotten by me and my whole family. To this day, during Thanksgiving, we inevitably speak of this unknown woman, and we all agree that she was a messenger from God, an angel doing God’s bidding. This woman with fiery red hair was one of the arrows in the quiver of the Lord, and she allowed herself to be used by him. I couldn’t hate her. Her skin color marked her as an enemy, but for no reason, she brought us much-needed food.
Sometimes it only takes one act of kindness in the name of Jesus to set off a chain reaction of kindness in others. The woman who gave us food for Thanksgiving was supplying not only food for a meal but food for thought. I began to see that not all people with white skin were bad. Jesus had given me the opportunity to make a change in my thought process, and I took it.
Personally, I truly believe that God sends angels disguised as people into our lives, and we don’t recognize them for what they are. The Catholic Church says, “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition” (CCC, 328).
Even more, the angels “serve [God’s] saving plans for other creatures” and “protect every human being” (CCC, 350, 352). All I can say is that that woman, whoever she was, brought more than groceries into my life; she brought the beginning of healing.
We are not angels, but we can bring healing to others as well. You think, for example, that your little acts of kindness or your warm smile means nothing, but often such actions have the power to soften a hard heart or to redirect a young mind.
As you go about your day, notice the people who smile at you, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for them and their kind deed. Try to smile kindly at others as well, and ask God to bless them. That smile or any small courtesy you extend could start a chain reaction of healing and the opening of a person’s heart to God.
This is an excerpt from Amazed by God’s Grace (The Word Among Us Press, 2018), available at wau.org/books.