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Chicago O’Hare was as busy as ever as I debarked from my morning flight that had just arrived from Houston Bush Airport. I was busy grabbing my luggage and trying to find my way to the subway, so I didn’t notice that Chicago had had severe weather the night before as I slipped under ground to jump on the next train.
As we sped towards downtown Chicago, I began to review my notes in preparation for a very important meeting that I was to have as soon as I arrived at my destination. Deep in thought, I barely noticed the train slowing down but became immediately alert when the train announcer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry to inform you that the train tracks are submerged in water up ahead and we will have to ask you to disembark from the train at the next stop”. “What?” I thought as I looked around to see where we were. It became apparent as I looked out of the train window that we were no where close to downtown Chicago and yet we were being asked to get off the train and find our way into town. I was not a happy camper.
As the train came to a stop, hundreds of commuters and out of town travelers poured out of the train doors into the streets of what looked to be a quiet suburban neighborhood. I was one of the hundreds that had no idea what to do next. Frankly, I was concerned about finding transportation because I wasn’t familiar with the city and wasn’t even sure of the exact direction of downtown. But as I watched the other more savvy travelers spreading out to locate taxis and buses, I decided to get ahead of the fray and go a couple of blocks away from every one else so that I would have a better chance of hailing a cab. Grabbing my briefcase and struggling to get my suitcase to roll properly on its wheels, I set out walking down the block.
I stopped on a street corner to glance around to see if there were any taxis in sight. There were! As one came closer, I noticed that it was already crammed full of other commuters that had gotten the same bright idea that I had gotten. Taxi after taxi passed by me in basically the same condition – full! I began to feel a bit panicky as I thought of the possibility of missing my meeting and maybe even having to walk into town with my high heeled shoes on! As I begin to ponder what to do next, I became aware that an older white haired gentleman had been standing quietly by my side. As I gave him a very cursory smile, he quietly stated, “You should go this way.”
I gave him a look that said, “Thank you very much but who asked you?” Of course, I was too nice to say what I was thinking so I said instead, “Thank you.” But I didn’t move from the spot as I continued to look for the next taxi.
Thinking he had gone away, I was surprised to hear his voice at my shoulder saying, “You aren’t going to find a cab. You should go this way.” I looked back at him in surprise, wondering what made him so confident that he had the solution to my problem. I had to admit, he looked a little like Santa Claus without the red suit. He had a very comforting expression on his face that seemed to have lived for a thousand years and yet looked very peaceful and unassuming.
I gave him a confused look and then he said, “Come, I’ll show you the way.” I thought about going with this stranger, which went against every bone in my big city girl body, but then I thought, “I’m bigger than him, and, if need be, I can always beat him up.” He seemed to have heard my thoughts at that point because he looked at me with a smile as he beckoned for me to follow him.
As we crossed the street, I looked ahead to see where we were headed. Directly in front of us was a bus stop where hundreds of commuters that had been tossed off the train were now waiting for any available bus going into downtown Chicago. As we approached the bus stop, I thought, “Good grief, I will be standing in this line forever and I will never make it to my meeting on time!” But the most amazing thing happened next. As the bus pulled up to the stop, it was obviously nearly full with people and had only a few standing room only spots remaining. Thinking we would head to the back of the line, I was surprised when the old man put his hand in front of the first person in line and beckoned for me to get on ahead of those already standing in line!
Now this was definitely something that could create a riot. Imagine the audacity of someone going ahead of hundreds of people already waiting for the same bus! I was fully prepared to hear screams of outrage and yet nothing happened! It was as though the man and I were invisible as I got on the bus with him and all my stuff. No one said a word! I had definitely entered the “twilight zone.”
As the bus lurched forward, I was crammed up against the next passenger, trying to hold onto the bus rail, while holding my briefcase and suitcase in my other hand. We sped forward and I began to think, “Where in the heck are we going?!” I didn’t even know if I was headed in the right direction. I looked up to see my little helper smiling at me and nodding encouragingly as though to say, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.”
We rode for half an hour and finally I saw the skyline that indicated we were approaching the downtown Chicago area. I began to feel a bit relieved as I saw the skyscrapers up ahead, but my relief quickly turned to anxiety as I wondered what stop I should get off on. Looking up again, I saw the old man still smiling and nodding confidently.
As people began to leave the bus at each stop, I thought, “I wonder if I should get off here?” But each time, I felt impressed to stay on. Time after time, the bus stopped, and I felt that I should stay on a little longer. Finally, I thought, “I’m going to get off of this bus and find me a cab to my meeting location.” Having just come to this great conclusion, I looked up again to thank my helper for his guidance. He had vanished!
I quickly scanned the entire bus to see if maybe he had sat down. No. It was obvious that he had completely disappeared! Standing with my mouth open having just witnessed what I was coming to believe was a visitation from an angel, I slowly got off the bus at the next stop. As the bus pulled away, I scanned my surroundings to determine the best place to catch a taxi and to collect my thoughts.
It was then that I realized that I had exited the bus in front of the very building where my meeting was to be held! I checked the address on my itinerary and confirmed that I was exactly where I was supposed to be with 30 minutes to spare.
I chuckled as I thought of a scripture my mother had often quoted to me from the Bible when I was a small girl: “Be careful how you entertain a stranger for you may be entertaining an angel unaware” (Heb. 13:2).
I nodded my head quietly and whispered, “Thanks Mom. You were right. God sent me an angel today and he showed me the way.”
With that, I straightened my business suit, adjusted my form fitting skirt and walked confidently into the building.Mary E. Banks is the author of “The Multi-Faceted Woman” and “Living by Faith 9 to 5.” She is the founder of Women of Wisdom Consulting Group, which includes leadership coaching, human resources consulting, strategic planning, teambuilding and conflict resolution training. A corporate executive in the financial services industry for over twenty years, Mary was appointed by then Governor George W. Bush to a six-year term on the Texas Commission on Human Rights where she served as Chairman of the Commission. Having won several distinguished awards, Mary was educated at Oral Roberts University and Houston Baptist University and is currently an instructor at Rice University in the Continuing Education Program. She lives in Houston with her husband and daughter, the reigning Miss Waco USA, who is a pre-med student at Baylor University. Visit her website at http://www.wowconsultinggroup.com/.