Miracle in Unexpected Places

February 27, 2010
Maybe it was fate. Maybe just pure chance or serendipity. But somehow the day I lugged around my older brother’s gym socks was the day my life changed forever.
My older brother had joined the football team that year and had gained twenty pounds of muscle, therefore not fitting into any of his clothes. Mom was busy with her new job as manager at the local publishing company, and my dad had been out of the picture for the past two years. So I was stuck with the duty of lugging a sack of my brother’s old clothes around town. The closest Goodwill store was out of our town’s limits and I wouldn’t get my license for another month, so I was dragging it from one store to another, but no one wanted my brother’s worn out clothes. Giving up hope, I turned down the last street and glanced down the little alley out of habit, and spotted Mickey.
New York is well known for their homeless. And Mickey was just one of the thousands. But for some reason he was well known by everyone in our small town. He had been taken in by child protective services numerous times but after each relocation he always went back to living on the streets. I think the police officers took pity on the kid, or maybe they were just tired of catching him. Either way he was left alone to fend for himself.
He got his nickname one day when he had stopped in the local McDonalds. He was around seven at the time and just sat in the back of the building, watching the other kids tumble and scream in the play area. A toddler started choking on a French fry as her mother was at the register paying. The homeless kid calmly walked over to the little girl and performed the Heimlich maneuver. The girl was fine after an ice cream cone; and her worried mother thanked the boy by buying him a happy meal. From then on he was known as the Mickey D kid, but was shortened to Mickey after several months of referencing to the heroic event.
In a way I had grown up with him, from the tender age of five I remember walking down the street with my mom, and spotting that pair of bright blue eyes against a dirty face. I had never approached him, mom had always said to stay away from dirty kids, so it seemed odd that I thought of him the winter we both turned fifteen.
Today I was exhausted from lugging around the bag of clothes and wanted to get out of the cold air, but as I glanced down the avenue and saw the usual form of Mickey I noticed something wasn’t right. He was in a pair of torn, dirty jeans, and a men’s coat that was two sizes to big on his slight frame. His hands were an icy white and chapped from the cool December air. Then I noticed his face, a smear of dirt covered a paper white face and lips that were almost blue. I turned down the alley; it didn’t look like he was breathing.
I ran over and kneeled next to him, my legs were almost numb from the cold and I could only imagine what it must feel like to sleep outside on the unforgiving concrete every night. I placed a mittened hand on one of his and nudged him. No response. I shook him. Nothing. Panicking I placed my hand over his nose and could feel a slight breath. I pulled off my mittens and put them on his long, tapered fingers. Talking to him, trying to get him to wake up, or if he was awake, to stay conscious. I pulled out one of my brother’s sweatshirts and pulled it over him. Then took off my scarf and wrapped it around his head.
I sprinted to the nearest store and had the manager call an ambulance; then helped carry the boy inside the coffee shop. Almost immediately the warmth had its affect on him. Color surged into his cheeks and he opened his eyes. When the ambulance came I sat next to him as they drove us to the hospital.
In a way it was kind of odd, I thought as I held his hand in the emergency room. When they asked for his name I couldn’t give them one. Mickey wasn’t his real name, but it was the only one I could offer.
After several hours in the waiting room the doctor came out and said I could go in and visit. He was lying on the hospital bed with a pile of blankets on top of him; I had to walk to the head of the bed just to see his face. He was still a little pale, but seemed awake, his eyes roaming the room warily. He blinked when he saw me, as if I had just shined a bright light in his eyes.
“Hey.” It was all I could think to say, given that I didn’t know his name. Somehow I didn’t think he would appreciate his nickname.
“So you’re the angel that saved me.” Somehow I had imagined his voice to be scruffy and guttural, maybe even short, childish sentences. But his voice was clear and sure, though somewhat weak.
I smiled shyly, “Lucky I happened to be passing by I guess.”
“Not just luck.” He smiled.
After a frantic phone call from my mom I stayed a few hours and talked with Tristan, which turned out to be his Christian name, I thought it fit him a lot better than Mickey. When my mom picked me up I couldn’t shake off the look Tristan had as his eyes scanned the room every few minutes, as if to check that he was still there, it was probably the first room warm room he had slept in since his foster home days.
I visited him every day until they released him from the hospital a week later. He went back to his alley, but I detoured to his alley and talked with him afterschool. He loved my brother’s clothes and, after some coaxing, got a job at McDonald’s. And he eventually saved up enough money to get a small apartment. I began tutoring him all summer and convinced him to start school. It turned out he was a fast learner and was soon in all the AP classes. Our senior year he was our Valedictorian.
Now we’re both in our second year of college. He’s attending Harvard on full scholarship. We talk on the phone a lot and visit each other during our school breaks. He still claims I’m his angel and that if I hadn’t been there that night he might not be here today.
It wasn’t just his life that had changed, but mine as well. He taught me about courage, hard work, and happiness in the little things of life. Opening my eyes to the true wonders of the world, not how big your salary is, but the brilliance of a sunset and the smell of the air just after a thunderstorm.
Miracles are sent to us in disguise, in the most unexpected places. Keep your eyes open, remember be kind to strangers, for you might be entertaining angels unawares.

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