On the many angels walking among us

There’s usually a loud “bang,” a strange flapping noise, and then—silence—and I know that that stretch of hill on I-40 has claimed another semi or RV. I don’t know what the deal is, but at least once or twice a month, someone breaks down around exit 175 in Tijeras. Sometimes the vehicles are there for hours, and then, poof—just like that, they are gone. Other times, the drivers end up at our place, looking for assistance. They need a bathroom, or advice, a phone book, or some water. Our parking lot, too, attracts people whose cars have broken down, who are lost, or whose children have decided they have to use the bathroom, right now.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” That’s my motto, too. I aim to be a good host and to make a bad situation better. So, sometimes the host is an angel, too.

Recently a young lady showed up at the museum. Her car had broken down and she wanted me to know it was parked out front. When I invited her to wait for her ride, she indicated she had several kids and she’d wait in the car with them.

It was July, and the sun was brutal. I peeked out occasionally, and she had all the doors and windows open as she sat with the kids. When were her people coming, I wondered? It was taking a long time. I gathered several bottles of cold water from the fridge and took them out to her. When I looked out a few minutes later, the family was gone. By the time I locked up for the night, someone had retrieved the car.

A couple of weeks ago, when I got to the museum, my dad was already there, talking to a man who looked frazzled. He had a dog with him. As I poured his dog a big bowl of water, the man explained that his semi broke down the night before and he’d spent the night and most of the day in the truck waiting for someone from his company to come rescue him. He’d finally hiked down to the Subway in Tijeras to get some food, and then hiked over to Molly’s for cigarettes. As he talked, he got the call he’d been waiting for—someone was finally coming to fix his truck. My dad offered to drive him and his dog up to his rig. My dad sure was an angel that day.

The next day, an older gentleman named Jim came in explaining his RV (also his home) had begun acting up, right on that hill! He’d limped off the ramp and ended up in our parking lot, hoping we could help him find someone to fix it. I knew that there were some mechanics in the East Mountains, and surely someone would help him out. Thus started a 2.5 hour saga.

The problem was that his RV was over 40 years old, and several places I called weren’t able to service something that old or that big. But every single place I called referred us to another mechanic who they thought could help; better still, they gave us phone numbers to help us facilitate the search. From Tijeras to Moriarty, competitors and colleagues worked together to try to get this man back to the East Coast.

We finally found someone who could fix the RV, but he didn’t tow. The lady at the towing company estimated it would cost a couple hundred dollars to get the vehicle to Moriarty. When he heard the price, the man’s face fell. The lovely woman on the other line said to me, “Before you make a decision, call this guy—he might be able to get it running enough to drive it out to the repair shop on its own.” So, at the risk of losing out on a sizable job, she referred us to Charlie’s Fleet. (At that time, I had no idea who they were and that they were tucked away in a remote corner of Tijeras.)

A miracle! Undaunted by the age and size of the rig, the dispatcher sent someone over to the parking lot to assess it. As the young man pulled up in his pick-up, I asked, “Are you our hero?” He said, “Yes, I am.” I gratefully turned our unexpected visitor over to him and went inside. A little later, both of them were gone.

Jake Bruton, manager, says at Charlie’s they treat everyone like friends. “We go get them; they can camp in our parking lot, plug into our electricity until we can get them back on the road. We’ve met some great people that way. Not too long ago, I had the best gumbo and etouffee made right in one of the campers we were servicing!”

I want to thank all of the people I called that day—the guys at the truck stops, the RV places, the mechanics, the gas stations, and the towing company. I think you are a great bunch of East Mountain Angels working collaboratively to show hospitality to a stranger in a strange land. And I’m pretty sure Jim thinks you are all angels too.