A friend and I had a glass of wine together the other night and reflected back on our lives and the times we should have been died but didn’t. Some would call it luck. Others would call it having a guardian angel. Some would say that was a weird way to spend an evening.
At twenty-one, my friend was badly burned in a fire that should’ve killed her. A few years later she rode in a runaway eighteen wheeler in Alaska with no brakes and survived. Another time she fell out of the raft in the white water, got caught under the raft and didn’t drown. As a teen she had a gun pointed at her in a drug deal gone bad, and she didn’t die.
As a young adult I lost my balance while hiking on a cliff’s edge but didn’t fall. Something pulled me back, and it wasn’t a person. Once I fell asleep on the freeway and missed my exit. But I woke up and survived. A time before that, I fell asleep while driving a carload of door-to-door book salespeople on a windy mountain road at midnight and didn’t crash the car. Several years ago I lost my ability to swallow real food for three years and lost fifty pounds. People were starting to say goodbye to me. But I got better.
In your sixties, you can look back at things that have happened and wonder why you are still around. My friend says she was meant to be a mother and to help people who need her, like her various tenants who can’t pay rent, or her friend’s daughter who needed a place to park her tiny house for a few months. It is easy to be generous when you know you shouldn’t be here, but you are.
I give away children’s books, because as a writer, I can, because it’s better than having a bunch of books left over for my kids to get rid of someday, because it makes a difference in people’s lives. Readers are successful people. Those who can’t read are usually not. I don’t have to do it, but I think it makes a difference.
I don’t go to church anymore and don’t read the Bible much, but I know what it means to live an honorable life. I have empathy for people, animals, immigrants, and nations. Just because I was born a white American doesn’t make me better than anyone else — luckier, maybe, but not better.
I have met a married couple who lived through a grizzly bear attack. I, myself, have been several feet from a mountain lion in the woods and was not attacked. I have come up on a multi-car accident as it is happening and have managed to not be part of it. Every time I survive one of these incidents, I wonder if I am running out of free passes. Or is my guardian angel sticking with me?
I hope so. I try to pay it forward when I can. I don’t want to scare off my guardian angel. I need her.
So don’t go away, oh winged one. I won’t do anything too stupid if you promise to back me up.
If the past is any indication, I am going to need you to be on call on a regular basis, at least for the foreseeable future.