Slow down, appreciate angels among us

I received a letter last week that got me thinking.

Most letters I receive intended for publication on this opinion page focus on politics or local government spending or taxes or other items of the sort. Sometimes letters come of a religious nature, and those we generally publish in our Saturday religion section. Sometimes I receive letters that are expressions of gratitude that we run in the Saturday “Neighbors” community pages.

Letters come by email to, they come digitally through the Virtual Newsroom at and they come via U.S. Postal Service mail. Some even get dropped off in person at the front counter of our downtown Warren offices.

Since each is its own form of “letter to the editor,” technically addressed to me, I take time to read every one.

Several times each week we publish our letters policy that clearly states, among other rules, we won’t publish unsigned letters, and each one must be accompanied by a phone number so that we can call and verify authenticity.

Nevertheless, without fail, I receive letters that don’t meet the criterion. If there is a return address, we try to contact the letter writers to advise them. Sometimes if it’s a particularly well-written or thought-provoking letter, I try to reach out and convince the writer to allow me to use his or her name, which sometimes works.

Now, there was a week this summer that I received a letter from an anonymous writer who wanted to share gratitude because of a kind act members of her family had done for her. She referred to them as angels. We were unable to contact her or publish the unsigned letter. Another day, that same week, I received a phone call from a reader who also spoke about the angels among us. I remember the call because it was so unusual. (Typically, readers call me to complain about things like why we felt the need to list their name in the police blotter, even though they were arrested for something like drunken driving.)

That weekend, I was standing in my driveway at home when a car pulled up and a woman got out carrying church pamphlets. She, of course, wanted to preach the good news. I saw her coming and I thought to myself, “OK, I’ll give her not more than a minute or two of my busy day.” As she approached, the first thing she said was, “I’ll take only a minute of your time.” Then she handed me a pamphlet labeled something like, “Do you believe in Angels?” She spoke for just about 30 seconds to remind me that angels are among us, wished me well and then she left.

Well, by now, I can assure you the message was getting through — angels are among us.

Flash forward a few months, when we all are harried and hectic with the impending holiday. My job was particularly crazy this week caused by a short staff because of vacations. Then, it showed up in my mailbox — an anonymous letter that I won’t be able to publish, but I will relay her story here. She was shopping Dec. 12 at Aldi’s in Niles when a woman, whom she did not know, in line ahead of her turned and said, “Merry Christmas,” before walking out. The woman had “generously and graciously” purchased the woman’s groceries in a kind act of “pay it forward.” The writer said, “I turned and called a blessing on her as she exited the store, I hope she heard it. If not, perhaps attention might be brought to her overwhelming present, and prod me to do likewise.”

Perhaps her heartfelt appreciation will help us all to do likewise, especially at this time of year.

The letter again was a good reminder to slow down and give thanks. There truly are angels among us.

Merry Christmas.