December 10, 2023

Inner Peace: The angel on the playground

one planet Inner Peace
One planet, one people, one family, by Sally McKirgan.
December 11, 2022

There to help in a time of need — if we have the eyes to see

By Richard Carey

All the oracles agree: Americans love angels and share a universal belief in them, regardless of religious persuasion. It’s believed that these ethereal beings usually come to save the day, having a lesson to teach and comfort to give. They can come in many forms.

Richard Carey

So, what exactly is an angel? Webster’s Dictionary offers us a smattering of definitions, beginning with the liturgically weighted:

…a spiritual being superior to humans in power and intelligence.

And next:

…an attendant spirit or guardian.

And finally, in a less-elevated category (angels with hefty checkbooks):

…one who aids or supports with money or influence.

Less formally, it’s commonly used to describe someone who resembles an angel in some aspect, particularly apropos to a child or to childlike innocence.

The word is Greek in origin and literally means messenger. There is much theological literature on the subject, all of it tinted with some ambivalence, more or less. Too much insistence on details about the metaphysical nature and ranking of angels can prove awkward in some circles.

For the record, I was never much of a believer in angels. Particularly, when it comes to the sweet and sappy variety who come to make our moral booboos all better, you could peg me as the tattooed sailor in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

But an experience at a children’s playground changed that. That day, long ago, as I kept a watchful eye on my daughter, a conflict arose among some of the other children. Among them were two apparent siblings, a girl of about 8 and her little tow-headed brother, who looked to be about 5. One of the other kids, in a singsong voice, kept taunting the little boy: “You don’t have a mommy.” The boy was crying. His big sister sharply shushed the offending kid, but the damage was done. She led her brother over to a man who sat alone on the grassy slope above the playground, not far from me.

“Daddy, tell Stephen that Mommy’s still here with us. Like you always say.”

In words I couldn’t make out, the father tried to reassure the boy, but the child would not be consoled. The two siblings now played alone together. The girl led her brother over to the two adjacent aluminum slides at the center of the sandy playground. Commanding him to wait below, she climbed the short ladder and sat perched at the top. She stretched her arm over to the space above the adjacent slide and partially closed her hand.

“Look, Stephen! I’m holding Mommy’s hand. She’s right here!”

And down she came, the whole time holding the hand of her invisible companion. With a whoosh, she landed feet first in the soft sand. “Whee, Mommy! That was fun! Let’s do it again!” Arm still extended, she rushed back to the ladder and scrambled back to the top.

She did this a couple more times as her brother watched with fixed concentration. He had stopped crying. Then she came over to him and instructed him to climb up. He rubbed away the last of his tears and obediently ascended the ladder. He plopped himself at the top of the same slide his sister had used. She guided him from below.

“Hold out your hand!”

He obeyed.

“Now slide!”

Down he came. He landed in the sand, quickly clambered back up, still holding the unseen hand, and slid down again, his face lit with the joy of it, his hurt forgotten.

“See,” his sister cheered him on, “I told you. She’s right here. She’s always here.”

A sudden, involuntary flush of tears blurred my eyes. I glanced at the father, still sitting alone on the slope, lost in his thoughts. I looked back at his daughter. I wanted her to tell him to hold out his hand. I wanted to hold out my hand.

Sometimes, when we can’t find inner peace on our own, an angel comes along to show us the way. Before that day in the playground, I, the lonely sailor, would have shrugged off such a notion —angels indeed. Now I see them all the time.

Richard Carey lives in Ashland, and when not facilitating the Inner Peace column, spends most of his time studying the Zen of idleness and scribbling out the occasional poem.

Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (



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