I met her in a gas station on I-75, in 1968. I was young, in a terrible marriage, and I was very pregnant. All I wanted was to reach my sister's house on Christmas Day. My husband and I had left in the early morning. He was in the Navy, and he was working on several ways to wind up in the brig. Insisting that bad tires and one tank of gas would get me to my sister's house, we had left with no food, no money, and only a glimmer of hope. I just wanted to feel normal, to laugh with my sister, and I wanted to feel my stomach full again.
The tire blew out somewhere between hope and despair, and my husband managed to flag down a passing motorist, who took him to a gas station to repair the tire. I had plenty of time sitting alongside the Interstate, to muse over all the events and decisions that had brought me to that moment in my life. I regretted the marriage, but I was also clueless to help myself, and now I was so hungry that I thought that I would die. It had been twenty hours since I had eaten, and my unborn child was kicking in protest.
Finally, my husband returned with the kind stranger, who then drove us to the gas station, as the wrecker pulled our car behind. The man paid for the tire, the gas...everything, but, I was still hungry, and I was ashamed to ask anyone for food.
About that time, a car pulled into the gas station, and a beautiful African-American lady stepped out. She was holding an electric crockpot. We exchanged smiles, and I almost fainted at the delicious smell coming from the cooking pot. We spoke a few words, as she moved closer to me.
The Pork Chops Smelled Heavenly...
"Honey, you look like you could use a good meal." She said, her voice soft and coaxing.
"Well, actually, I am very hungry." I admitted, eyeing her stewpot.
"You look like you are eating for two." She smiled, as she considered my belly.
"As a matter of fact, I feel as though it's been more like starving for two." I chuckled, more serious than I could express.
"Here." She said, opening her pot. "Have a pork chop." The smell was overpowering.
"Well...." I hesitated, as she insisted and brought the luscious food right under my nose.
"Thank you!" I cried, reaching into the pot.
When my teeth sank into the tender, spicy meat, I knew that I had died and gone to heaven!
All through my pregnancy there had never been enough food. My husband was a strange man. He stole things from where he worked, and I did not dare protest. He beat me, and had even hit me in my stomach, screaming that he hated my baby. I didn't know how to leave. I was raised in a home where divorce was unthinkable and women were not valued, so I was terribly alone. This sweet lady was the kindest person that I had ever met.
She was an angel of mercy, who guessed that the burly young man, who could charm someone out of a new tire and money, was not all he seemed. She just seemed to know that I was miserable, that I was homesick, and that I and my baby were in danger.
"Remember, God didn't put us on this earth to be miserable. If there is anything you can do to better yourself, do it. God will take you through. He will go before you, and He will be your rear guard." Then she pressed a twenty into my hand, before climbing back into her car and heading in the opposite direction.
'Are You Out of Your Mind?'
Later, I asked the mechanic who she was.
"Who?" He asked.
"You know," I said, "the black lady that I was with."
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, with a growl. "I haven't seen any black lady today."
"She was right there with me. I ate nearly all her pork chops!" I thought he was an idiot.
"Nope. No black lady. And I would have smelled the pork chops!"
I was stunned. Had I eaten four pork chops?! It couldn't be that I imagined it. My stomach felt full, and I could still smell the heavenly aroma. I asked my husband if he remembered her.
"No. Are you out of your mind? You were standing alone, all the while. I was sick of hearing you whine about how hungry you were." I felt the twenty in my hand, and I hid it. I felt the food giving me strength. I had eaten pork chops! I had not imagined it. She was real.
There are always those who might say it was a dream. Perhaps my hope fed my hunger. And perhaps God, in his mercy, sent an angel to meet my needs and make me feel His love. I only know that I have never forgotten that woman's compassion, nor her pork chops!
Months later, when I finally escaped from my ex-husband, I became the first person in my family to get a divorce. I was treated like a fallen woman by some, but with each slur, I would think of a kind African American woman who shared a loving meal with a pregnant white girl, in a gas station in the segregated south.
She was right, God has gone before me, and He has been with me ever since. I can't prove that she was from heaven. I only know that she was an angel.