Monday, September 15, 2014

A Miraculous Angel Named Mr. Miyagi

A Miraculous Angel
The computer tech reminded me of a young version of Mr. Miyagi, wise and reassuring. At the quaint computer store, Miyagi Jr. quietly accessed my laptop and said he could fix it immediately and be done within a half hour. So I waited and before realizing what happened, that man gave my four kids candy--we joked and laughed about life--my mood AND the mood of the store changed, becoming brighter.
    When it came time to pay, he wouldn't let me. "This is on me," he said.
    "You have to let me pay," I said. "Look at all the work you've done."
    He eyed me thoughtfully, stroking his long goatee. I thought he might see straight through me. Maybe he'd understand that something rested beyond my joking and laughter. Zeke's birthday was fast approaching and I didn't want to feel the ache that day always brings since my son passed away.
    Miyagi Jr. nodded and said, "There's a pizza place around the corner. A man always works there at this time. If you'd really like to thank me, go order a pizza and visit with the man who's working there. Visit with him just like you visited with me."
    Visit with the man?  It sounded strange. What could he possibly mean? It was my turn to study him. "All right," I finally said, then grabbed my youngest kids' hands and stepped toward the door. 
    Just as the bell rang above the exit and I walked outside, I heard another tech ask Mr. Miyagi, "Are you sure you should send her over there? You know what happens when some people go there when he's workin--"  The door shut and I didn't hear another word.
    "Mama, where are we going now?" my four-year-old son asked as I buckled him in his seat.
    I inhaled a big breath. "Well, that nice man wouldn't let me pay. So we're going to buy him a pizza."
    The pizza place was tucked back at the edge of a dilapidated parking lot.  People swarmed to other businesses around, but no one went to the forlorn restaurant.     
    "You stay in the car. Keep an eye on the babies," I told my oldest daughters.
    "Mom, are you sure you should go? This whole thing sounds weird," my second-oldest daughter said.
    "I'm just getting a pizza. The computer tech needs to get something for all of his hard work."  I turned music on for the kids, stepped from the car and locked the black doors.
    The pizza place didn't have tables, chairs or benches. But the spotless counter gave me a good impression. As the smell of fresh breadsticks wafted toward me, my insides warmed with childhood memories. I stepped forward and rang the metal bell.
    "Hello?" I said.  "Hello?"  Someone moved in the shadows at the far end of the kitchen.
    A man lumbered forward. At first I couldn't see his face because he'd turned it down and away.
    "Those breadsticks smell amazing!" I said.  Then he fully turned toward me and I gasped.
    The left side of his face was so handsome. He had a striking brown eye and perfectly dark skin. But the other side of his face drooped and bulged.  The forehead on his right side stretched a fist taller than the rest of his face.  His right eye couldn't open, nestled below his nose.  
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    "What do you want?" he mumbled.
    I nearly cried, feeling so badly for gasping seconds before.  I blinked hard, collecting myself, and instantly donned a smile.
    "How are you today?" I asked brightly.
    "I'm . . . all right," he said, turning so I only saw his profile. "And you?"
    "I'm having a fantastic day. I went to that computer repair place over there.  They fixed my computer for free.  So I'd like to order a large peperoni pizza for them."
    His curious eye darted toward mine.  "They've been very good to me as well." His words came out slowly and cautiously.
    I wanted to make an impact, then. But how? I could have told him that my first son had birth defects. Explain how Zeke had a cleft lip and palate.  My stomach knotted, remembering how I'd wanted Zeke to be born perfect, live a good life, and die long after I did. I looked at the pizza man and wondered for the millionth time, why do birth defects exist?
    But instead of talking about Zeke, Miyagi Jr.'s words drifted into my mind.  Visit with him just like you visited with me.   
    So I shot the bull with him as he made the pizza.  I told jokes about how I worked at a pizza place once. "When I was on the clock, they were always running out of pineapple," I said. "It's my weakness, really."
    "I know what you mean," he mumbled, then laughed. "I always eat the pineapple too. It's a good weakness though."
    When he finished the peperoni-extra-cheese, he came over to the counter. "Don't worry about bringing this to them. I'll bring it for you and tell them an angel bought them lunch."
    I've been a lot of things, but I've never been someone's angel. As I gazed into the man's eye, I thought of how hard I try doing everything right--so I can see my son in Heaven. But I never feel good enough. Tears welled in my eyes and I couldn't look away from the man. No. I wasn't an angel, he was--smiling and laughing despite his lot in life. It could take years to learn what that man had suddenly taught me about gratitude.
    I lingered because so much kindness shone from his deep, dark eye. "Thank you. You have yourself a wonderful day," I said, turning to leave.
    Just as I pushed the door open, he stopped me. "Wait," he said, and I turned. "Thanks for coming in here today. It's a cruel world out there, but people like you make it a better place."
    I held the door open for a minute longer. "Not people like me," I said. "Wonderful people like you."  I smiled one last time. "Hey, enjoy the pineapple, it is the best part of working at a pizza place."
    "I will," he promised and I left the store.
    As I drove home, clouds grayed the sky overhead. The sun shone brightly in the east, shedding light even through the storm.  I told my kids the story. "I don't know who was more of an angel, the pizza man or Miyagi Jr."
    "Mom, you haven't said a word about the guy's face. I saw him through the window. Didn't you notice something was really wrong with him?"
    There hadn't been a reason to mention his physical defects. "He was born with problems like Zeke was. But just like Zeke, he was beautiful inside. It makes me wonder though. . . . Why do you think the computer tech sent me to the pizza place?" I asked my oldest daughter.
    "Maybe he realized you treat everyone with the same kindness no matter what. That says a lot about you, Mom."
    "No," I sniffled. "It says a lot about him."
    I pulled off and parked on the side of the road after that. I got out and looked into the storming sky. I thought about my book The Golden Sky--the book about how God and Zeke changed my perception--how sometimes beauty comes right after the storms of life. 
    As I gazed at the widening clouds, a raindrop fell on my nose and somehow I felt like Zeke was looking down on me, beaming. 



  1. Thank you for that beautiful story. If more people would behave as the man in the computer store did, and as you did, we would lie in a much better world. Our grandson has the very rare Smith-Maginnis Syndrome, and among other things, he has an extremely large head, and his muscle control is so poor that he couldn't talk or get out of diapers until he was ten years old. He begs his mother not to put his picture on the family Christmas cards. I told him that the reason his picture needed to be there was, I want to be able to look at him every day because I love him, and so do many other people in and out of the family. He is a very loving and lovable child, but too many people can't see past his handicaps. Everyone who does loves him at once. I'm sorry your son didn't live, because I think he would have been like our Ben--loving and lovable.

    1. This means so very much to me. Ben sounds wonderful.
      Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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  3. This is a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. So many out there with some ailment, simply sucks indeed. But if more acted like the pair of you, would make the world a much better place.

  5. Your story made me cry. First for the loss of Zeke and second for the disfigurement that young man endures. Then I cried for gratitude for people in the world like you, and him.

  6. You are teaching your kids to see people for WHO they are instead of WHAT they are. That's only one of the reasons I love you--& so do a lot of others! I hope God throws Zeke a wonderful birthday party & that our son is one of the guests. I think that our boys are probably best friends!!

  7. Thanks for the story. Thank you for the free books for Zeke's Birthday. My friend who lost her son, just lost her grandmother and I told her about how The Golden Sky helped me understand more about what she went through with Robert. It is hard to see through disabilities.

    My husband has been using crutches and we have had strangers hold open doors or offer to help, even young children. One young man even said "You're welcome." He was well taught, just like you taught your children after buying that pizza. If only more parents would teach their children to see the good in others and to do nice things for others.

  8. What a touching story...

    Tears are welling in my eyes for sure... Thank you for sharing this with us...

  9. This story is beautiful. My son is 10 today and we are so lucky to have him with us but he has learning difficulties. Life can be a struggle for him but in a different way. Sending our love and prayers xxxxxx

  10. Dear Elisa, DJan's comment says all that is in my heart right now. You are so deep down good and you touch all our lives with your enthusiasm for life and your great gift of responding to who people are within themselves. You look for good and you always find it. Peace.

  11. Damn it. Now I'm crying.

    So well written. And even better done in real life. :)

  12. What a touching chain of events. Yes, several angels involved there. :) :)

  13. Maybe they find it risky. Or could be so time consuming.
    Attorney Macon

  14. Amazing story! Thanks so much for sharing this- it's like in the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio- we should all be kinder than necessary- inside, we are all the same : ) I loved reading this! ~ Jess

  15. I agree with Rita that there were multiple angels involved that day! What a series of blessings for all of you!

  16. What a beautiful story! This reminded me of Wonder by RJ Palacio, too. Then I saw Jess commented about the same thing. If you haven't read it- I bet you (and your kids) would love it. Thanks for sharing this touching post. :)

  17. I am so sorry about your son. Now that I know of Zeke, I shall remember him too.

    Sometimes we run into people who may not look like any one else at all, but then we realize that we have much more common with them than our eyes could see. Why do we see so many abnormalities. I think it is a test of our reaction and how we can help people who may be abnormal. Also I think it is God's way of reminding us how lucky we are.

  18. This made me cry. There are angels on earth, as this story proves. You are one. Merry Christmas, my friend.

  19. This story still says a lot about you. Happy Holidays to you and your children and to their father, also.

  20. Funny yet not funny how things like this happen in our lives. It always makes me think how many chances to do good for others that I have missed--being wrapped up in my own world and missing a chance to talk to someone like your Mr. Miyagi, Jr. or pizza man.

    You being open to challenges and willing to courageously move forward is always inspiring...

  21. Something made me read this today and I am so glad I did not because I ended up with tears rolling down my face but because of the good feeling I now have inside. You are amazing............

  22. Thank you for sharing that story.