In 1988-89 I worked for eight months at a facility for juvenile offenders. The boys, sixteen to eighteen years old, who were serving time in the ‘reformatory’ were not hardened criminals or violent offenders. One kid, for example, had gotten into an argument with his step-dad and, in a huff, had driven away in the family car. He often took the family car without asking permission, but on that occasion his angry step-dad decided to make a point and had the boy arrested for grand theft, auto. The charge stood and the kid was sentenced to six months. Some of the kids had been caught smoking marijuana and were doing time for that. They weren’t angels and a few were on track to become career criminals and deserved to be incarcerated, but mostly they were a rambunctious but not a violent bunch.
One day I got into the lunch line behind three boys whose horse play was getting a little out of hand, so I called them down. One kid whirled around and pointed his napkin-wrapped flatware at my throat. It was a stupid teenaged bluff and I was in no real danger. Before I could say a word, the boy’s eyes flicked over my right shoulder and instantly took on a look of anxiety just before his hand jerked away from my neck and he turned quickly around.
What the heck, right?
I turned to my right to see another of the boys, one of the bigger, meaner boys, behind me. He just nodded nonchalantly at me and turned his attention elsewhere. But it was clear that he had given some signal to the boy in front of me, and that boy had desisted, most quickly, in his bluff.
What had happened? I knew the bigger boy, it was a small group of kids, but we had not developed any sort of friendly bond. So why had he come to my defense? Maybe he had a kindly feeling toward me. Maybe he had an unkindly feeling toward the other kid, or maybe they were friends and he didn’t want him to get into trouble. There was a reason, there always is, but the reason doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is, in that brief moment in time, he was my guardian angel.
Pure coincidence, that certain small group of people coming together in a given space at a specific point in time, brought together purely by coincidence, and one chose to be, and was tasked with being, a guardian angel. He chose, and he was tasked. To me, it’s the same thing. I think that’s how the divine works. Another person, I, was chosen to be reminded that the divine is at all times near, sometimes even in the guise of a big, tough juvenile offender.
The whole thing is just too cool to express, but you can see it working, if your eyes are open to the coincidental divine.