As we sat eating dinner at a very busy restaurant before taking the children to see Christmas lights, everywhere around us there were families and couples. Before I knew it, my daughter was crying. She silently wept as I tended to the children. She tried to hide her tears so no one would notice. The holidays are hard enough to manage under normal circumstances, but when a person has a broken heart, Christmas becomes a cruel ordeal. A well-dressed Afro-American woman walked towards us and stopped. She leaned in close to my daughter and told her that she had been sitting across the restaurant and had noticed the distress she felt. The kind lady shared a personal experience with my daughter in support of my daughter’s sadness and left by telling her that she would find the answer she needed most. A few minutes later I turned to see where the lady was sitting, but after not finding her, I assumed she had finished eating and left the restaurant.
We drove to St. Anne’s, a local Catholic church known for its Christmas light display. The children raced around the grounds full of excitement in anticipation of Christmas. The cool night air had chilled our faces, so we were glad when we entered the church. Inside was magnificently decorated. The spirit of Christmas lived within the church as the chorus sang various Christmas hymns. The children (three of the four with us were Muslims) asked me a million questions about the church and as I ushered them through the church, I noticed my daughter had knelt to pray. Although we are not religious, seeing her kneeling in prayer didn’t surprise me. I slid into the pew next to her and the children followed me. As my daughter looked up from praying, standing across the church from us was the same woman from the restaurant standing there smiling at my daughter. By the time we made our way across the crowded church to once again speak to her, she was gone.
Later that night, my daughter told me that when she knelt to pray, she told "God" that she didn’t know what to say. She said that her inner voice told her to ask for the courage to accept things she could not change. I smiled at her and told her that what she was saying was the serenity prayer commonly recited at 12 step meetings. She blankly looked at me, so I went to the Internet, found the prayer and printed her a copy. She read it and then told me that was basically what had gone through her head.
The tears came again and she asked, "Mom, that lady was real, wasn’t she?" I thought for a moment and told her that I had seen her also, so she must have been real. My daughter was deeply touched by the act of kindness a stranger had shown her and we both knew that the true spirit of Christmas was alive. That lady forever more has been referred to as my daughter’s "black angel". She now keeps a statue of a little black angel on her bookcase as a reminder that she did find the answer that night in the following words:
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference."