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Education of an Angel

A young man almost gives up on his dream of going to college, only to find success in an unexpected way.

Walter, age 18, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn

I stepped off the bus with a heavy heart.

Usually this was one of the most exciting parts of my week, going to my college biology class.

That class was the start of a whole new life for me. I’d been ill during high school and only earned my diploma later in night school. Finally I’d enrolled at Medgar Evers College, a brand-new school opened by New York’s City University system. The college was so new it didn’t have a campus. My biology class took place at a church in Brooklyn, a 45-minute bus ride from my parents’ house in Bay Ridge. I loved that class.

Except today I was coming to drop out for a while. The day before, my father had died. He’d been a janitor at a big building in midtown Manhattan. He’d fallen from a ledge at work and broken his leg. Three weeks later he’d suffered a fatal embolism. My mom wasn’t doing well either. She was struggling to recover from an operation. I’d already missed yesterday’s class and I was coming to tell the professor I wasn’t sure when I’d return.

I approached the church, a beautiful Gothic sanctuary more than 100 years old with a soaring bell tower, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian. A warm September sun shone down.

“Good morning,” said a voice. Startled, I looked up to see a familiar face. A tall man with thinning blond hair in khaki pants and a blue collared shirt stood at the church door polishing the glass. I’d seen this man most days I came to class. I assumed he was a janitor like my father. He was always cleaning something or sweeping the walkway. He wore funny, old-fashioned glasses. He was friendly, always said hello to me.

“Didn’t see you yesterday,” he said.

Before I could reply to him my eyes filled with tears. “I know. My father died yesterday,” I choked.

The man’s face clouded with concern. “I’m very sorry,” he said. “Can I do anything for you?”

Suddenly the prospect of going to class and explaining about my father all over again filled me with dread. “Would you mind telling my professor what I just told you? She needs to know why I won’t be in class.”

“Of course,” the man said. “Come back soon.” I thanked him and walked quickly to the bus stop.

Things only got worse. My mother’s condition deteriorated, and I realized that without my father’s income I couldn’t take care of her and go to school at the same time. I’d gotten a job at a coffee shop but it didn’t pay much. I figured I wasn’t meant to get a college education.

On the morning I decided to drop out altogether I left the coffee shop and walked home. I was tired—my coffee shop shift had begun at 4:00 a.m.—and depressed. I collapsed onto the sofa and fell asleep. Hours later I awoke with a splitting headache. For a moment I wondered what was wrong with me. Then the strangest thing happened.

Despite the eruption in my head I felt a sudden urge to stand up. The urge became a command to leave the house and board the bus toward Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian. Still directed by this mysterious force, I got off the bus, walked to the church and sat on the steps outside. My class had long since ended for the day. The church appeared closed.

Minutes later the church door opened and I shrank back. White light poured from the door. I shielded my eyes and saw, silhouetted, a familiar figure. It was the man I’d often seen at the church, the one I assumed was a janitor. The moment I saw him my headache vanished. The man stepped toward me.

“I didn’t see you coming to class today,” he said, smiling.

“I—I didn’t go to class,” I replied. The man stared at me. Something about his gaze caused me to blurt, “I’m dropping out of school. I can’t afford it. I want to go but I can’t.”

The man nodded. “How much money do you need?” he asked.

“Eighty dollars a week,” I said.

“You just got yourself a working scholarship for three hundred and thirty-two dollars a month.” He extended a hand for me to shake. I looked at him.

The man laughed. “I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m George Knight, the pastor here. I need someone to answer the phone and vacuum after Sunday services. You start Sunday.”

My expression grew even more dumbfounded. “Get some rest,” George said. “I’ll see you Sunday.”

I did see George that Sunday. And for many years after. My friendship with him only confirmed the miraculous events of that providential day. The same week I began work at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian my mother passed away. George attended the funeral and asked if I’d like to live in a spare room in the church’s rectory. I said yes and in the following years George helped me finish school, even doing my vacuuming whenever I got too overloaded with homework.

Eventually I graduated, married, landed a stable career and had a wonderful daughter who grew up to become a social worker. What would have happened if I’d never met George, never returned to his church and discovered he was so much more than the janitor?

Well, God doesn’t think in what-ifs. George Knight was my rescuing angel. I thank him in my heart each and every day. 

Download your free ebook, Angel Sightings: 7 Inspirational Stories About Heavenly Angels and Everyday Angels on Earth.

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