When I lived in New York, my main mode of transportation was a bike. I worked six days each week, and my bicycle thought that the one day I had free should be spent fixing it. That was what I was doing the day Emily first showed up. I was in the driveway repairing my bike when I heard her voice behind me.
“What the *#&@ are you doing?”
Although I had heard some rough women speak with that kind of language, mostly I had only heard it from men. But when I turned around, to my surprise, I found myself looking into the face of a skinny, little six-year-old girl. Her dark brown hair hung loosely, uncombed, and ragged around her face. Her big brown eyes stared at me questioningly. It took me an instant to regain my composure after realizing it was such a young girl speaking that way.
“I’m fixing my bike,” I replied.
“Don’t you have any *#&@ thing better to do?” she asked. “I see you working on that *#&@ thing every week.”
I laughed, partly at her brazen attitude, partly at her misplaced use of certain profane words, and partly because she was right about how much I worked on it.
“It does seem to need a lot of work, doesn’t it?” I agreed.
“Why don’t you get a new one?” she asked.
“I can’t afford it,” I replied.
“I know a guy that will steal whatever *#&@ bike you want for only ten bucks,” she said. “Do you want me to talk to him for you?”
“Well, that’s, uh, nice of you,” I replied, not knowing if that was quite the correct response, “but I think I will just keep this one.”
She stared at me curiously and intently, and it made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, so I turned back to work on my bike as I talked.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“423 Elm Street.”
I had to stifle my surprise. Elm street was miles away through a real rough part of the city.
“What brings you over here?” I asked.
“To be away from home,” she replied. “Last Friday school got out for the summer, and today my step-dad told me to get out of the house because he was ‘sick of seeing my *#&@ ugly face.’”
In an instant I knew much about this little girl. I had come across many children like her before. Knowing how far away she lived, I asked, “Aren’t you concerned about getting home for lunch?”
“I’m not allowed home until dark,” she replied.
My heart ached for her as I considered what her home life must be like. “Would you like to eat lunch with me?” I asked. “It won’t be anything fancy, just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
She nodded vigorously, and I led her into the house. My landlady was there, and I introduced Emily to her. “I’m *#&@ glad to meet you,” Emily said.
My landlady, a very proper Polish woman, raised her eyebrows slightly at such language. Emily ate nearly a loaf of my homemade bread, each slice smothered in strawberry jam. She also drank two full glasses of milk.
As she finished, she asked, “Are you an angel?”
“What do you mean?” I asked in surprise.
“Someone told me that God has people that are called angels, and they work for Him and help someone that needs help. I thought you might be one of them, and I was really hungry, so that’s why I came here.”
I smiled at her. “Well, Emily, I suppose that sometimes God can have common people be angels to help someone.” I thought about that, and then added, “And if you are ever hungry, or need someplace to go, you come on over.”
And though I know I’m no angel, I wondered if God had brought her to me.
Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit his website at http:// www.darishoward.com