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He Rides on my Shoulder

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Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

We had signed up with a group for a 10-day tour of France, and had flown over a few days early so that we could visit the Shrine of St. Bernadette at Lourdes, which was not on the itinerary. My wife, Belle, has a cousin whose daughter grew up with our children and was one of our oldest daughter's best friends. She is married to a Frenchman and lives with her family outside of Toulouse, which is near Lourdes, so we had planned to stop by for a visit with them along the way. It was during lunch on a beautiful fall day in September that her 11-year old son taught me something that I have never forgotten, and which has helped me many times during the intervening years.

Somehow, the conversation had gotten on the subject of school, and Jacques was talking about a problem that he was having with one of his teachers, who had ridiculed and embarrassed him in front of his friends. The teacher had asked the students to tell about something exciting that had happened to them recently. Jacques stood up and said that all his life he had been painfully shy and afraid of being with people, until one day a little while ago his Sunday school teacher had told him that he had a guardian angel who was always right there with him to help him.

He had never heard of that before, but he trusted his Sunday School teacher, so the next day during a soccer game, he asked his guardian angel to sit on his shoulder and show him when he should pass the ball, and when he should try to kick a goal. Jacques told his classmates that it made all the difference, and that now his guardian angel, whose name is Henri, is on his shoulder everywhere he goes, and he is no longer afraid. But the teacher did not believe him, and just stood there and laughed at him, because "there is no such thing as angels." As he told us this, tears welled up in his eyes, and spilled over, running slowly down his cheeks.

"Jacques," I said, "is your angel sitting on your shoulder right now?" and he nodded yes. "I don't see him," I went on, "and maybe I don't believe there is an angel there at all. Is he still there?" and again he nodded yes. "So it doesn't matter whether I believe he is there or not, as long as you know he is there, isn't that right?" Slowly, I saw the clouds part, and then the sun burst forth in a radiant smile.

My angel's name is Caleb.
 
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