Billy Coffey
Billy Coffey

Calling all angels

May 3, 2012  

742px-Angel_with_Mobile_Phone_420In the village of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, there is a cathedral. Atop the spires and colonnades are statues of saints and angels, many of which are smiling faintly, as if they know all the answers to all the mysteries that vex us so.

One angel in particular has caused something of a stir in that small village. The newest one, erected only last April. Whereas all of its counterparts are garbed in the traditional flowing robes and wings, this one has been modernized with jeans, a laptop, and a cell phone.

It’s the cell phone that captured the attention of one particular husband and wife in the village. The wife especially. So much so, in fact, that she set up a number so people can call the angel. Sort of a heavenly lifeline.

The church, of course, frowned on such a development. They didn’t think it appropriate for anyone to be playing an angel. In their wisdom, however, the bishops decided to let things be. A good thing, that. Because now upwards of thirty people a day dial the angel’s number, and each are greeted by the voice of a very normal and very anonymous Dutch housewife who says, “Hello, this is the little angel.”

It’s all become somewhat of a phenomenon. The angel even now has his own Twitter account (@ut_engelke). Calls come from all sorts of people in all walks of life—old and young, rich and poor, happy and sad. Recently, a little girl called the angel for prayers for her dead grandmother. A widow called for prayers for her dead grandchildren.

The angel (I suppose that should be “angel”) answers them all. She listens. I doubt if much advice is given, but I have no doubt that’s a good thing. When people are hurting, what they need isn’t advice, it’s an ear to whisper into and a shoulder to lean upon.

I read about all of this the other day. It stuck in me. Not so much like a nagging pain. More like an itch you get deep in your ear that can’t be scratched. I couldn’t define that itch then. I think I can now.

What struck me wasn’t so much that somewhere in the Netherlands there exists a statue of an angel wearing jeans and holding a cell phone. Not even that in a tiny village there lives a woman who is now heaven’s answering service. No, what struck me was the number of people every day who call a number they know doesn’t point heavenward to speak to someone they know isn’t an angel, for no other reason than that they are hurting.

That they need help.

That, my friend, is a powerful thing.

I’ve long believed that joy is an individual thing; what makes me happy, what brings me peace and laughter, might not be what would bring those things to you. But when it comes to what makes us hurt, what makes us afraid, what keeps us up at night staring at a vacant ceiling, those things are the same. Maybe not exactly, but close enough.

Our hurts unite us.

They define us.

They make us not only human, but a family.

And if that’s the case, maybe we could all be angels, too.

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8 Responses to “Calling all angels”

  1. katdish says:

    Beautiful post, Billy. You always dig a little deeper to find both the common and the profound. And that video at the end? Brilliant. It’s as if that song was written just for this post. It tied it together perfectly.

  2. Joanne says:

    Beautiful is right. And thought-provoking. As usual.

  3. Hazel Moon says:

    Sounds to me like the makings of another Angel book for you to write.  WOW all the possabilities! It might be a good thing for some little angel here in the USA to give out a phone number. Listening is good! and not giving advise is best and just listening.

  4. Missy says:

    Love this post. Very beautifully said. 
    There are more people out there hurting that are right in front of us and we have no idea. We need to be “angels” to them. 

  5. pastordt says:

    What a gift on a tired Saturday morning as I prepare to drive 135 miles to visit my aging, increasingly forgetful mama before we leave on vacation next week. Oh, Lord – help me to remember to just listen to the pain…one more time. Thanks so much for this.

  6. Keystone says:

    God has no Phone, but I talk to him. He has no Facebook, but he is still my friend. He does not have a twitter, but I still follow him. ♥ @ZaynMalikFansUK 2 months ago~~~ From Twitter Favorite of All Time ListBut sometimes an angel you can touch and feel, is needed to tell God, what you can not.In Divorce Recovery, I recall telling a particularly overcome gal to call me any time, day or night, when she needed to.  The phone rang months later at 2AM. (back then, I was not deaf).”Hullo?””It’s just me” were her first words on her first call ever.  I recognized her voice and waited.I waited another 2 minutes, then another.  Not a word was said by either of us.Finally, she told me: “Today is our anniversary.  He is with somebody. I am alone. I just needed to know I am not alone and you told me to call when that time came.  I am okay now.  G’nite””G’nite”, I added as I hung up a two word conversation on my part.Kevin Bacon allows us all to have 6 degrees of separation, but in my town, we are about 1 degree, maybe 1-1/2 degrees of separation.  Everyone knows everyone, or someone,So when Pat Monahan of Train needed some milk at the store for his kids, he would politely nod “Hullo”, as if he was a local, not a star in Hollywood.It is because he was.  He was kind to anyone and everyone.Divorce.Move away.Still comes back a lot and plays his gig locally….a tribute to his roots.Remarriage.Another child to raise.A dad first always, then singer.I can’t hear his songs any longer. Went deaf.But I listen impeccably still.Pat can cry out “Calling All Angels”, for he too, has called upon them in pain and need.”Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted”~~~ The Pain Bearer for all of us, Christ Jesus

  7. […] “Our hurts unite us. They define us. They make us not only human, but a family.” Billy Coffey The year 1988 began with Miami defeating Oklahoma for the college football championship. Two days […]

  8. A few months ago I had the profound privilege of playing an angel for a church drama. Clarisee danced around the stage as a smiling, attentive, ever-helpful angel for Act I, and I fell into the role with more natural fun than I’ve had since I can’t remember when. Not quite so much fun was had in Act II, when Clarisse—without diminished countenance—must gently but firmly announce sin’s final consequence, and then stand with restraint and solidarity as the Jesus-figure pays that penalty.

    Our hurts unite us.
    They define us.
    They make us not only human, but a family.

    I think, Billy, that you are correct—any one of us may play the role of angel when we willingly share the hurt of another. And I think perhaps, at least in this world, there is more unity and identity with Christ to be had in pain than in joy.

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