THE OLD ANGEL
Leon was in a good mood…a very
good mood. He sat in his favorite chair high above the
small arena watching the young man named Mitch work with the
two horses, one of which had been real trouble for most all
of the first two weeks. The old angel had been a horseman
during his time on earth, and knew exactly what Mitch – far
down below – was trying to do. Leon was feeling good
because he knew evaluating Mitchell would be an enjoyable
experience – and that Mitch would get good marks. He knew
that in the first few days. Then, the buzzer vibrated in
his ear signaling a call from HQ…
“This is Leon. I can help you,” he answered.
“Leon? It’s Maxine in personnel. We’re sending you
“Oh, brother,” he thought to himself. “Just
when things were going great.”
“Can it wait just a day or two, Maxine? I’m almost
“You know better than to ask that, Leon,” she said.
“If your mentoring skills weren’t so effective, we wouldn’t
always be sending you a new one.”
Leon sighed, and said, “Okay. When is he coming?”
“Here’s there now,” said Maxine.
Leon looked over to his right. Sitting beside him was
a young man around thirty or so, looking all spiffy with his
pressed shirt and starched jeans. The cowboy extended his
hand and said, “Hey, old partner. I’m Charlie.”
“Old partner?” thought Leon.
“Hello, Charlie,” he said. “I’m finishing up an
evaluation here. Be done this sometime later this evening.
You’re welcome to stay and observe if you like.”
“Meaning, ‘Don’t talk while I’m working.’ But Leon knew he
would never be that lucky.
“Oh sure, old partner” said Charlie. “I know all about
evaluations. Learned all about’em in orientation. Us
angels watch how people live, then report on them to
Headquarters. You know you’re lucky, Leon. I can help you
“Really?” Leon said, dragging the word out slowly.
“I know all about people,” said Charlie. “And I
really know all about
“Well,” said Leon, looking off into the sky. “That
“See?” said Charlie with excitement. “Look at that.
Right now, he should pop that horse on the butt with his
Leon looked down over the railing to see the young colt
dancing nervously just outside the roping box. “And what
would that do?” asked Leon, in a serious tone.
“Well,” Charlie said loudly. “You gotta’ teach that
horse who’s boss. You can’t let him get away with that.”
Leon remembered how nervous the horse had been in the
first few days, and how proud he had been of Mitch and his
calm patience. He rose from his chair and said, “’Scuse me
a minute, Charlie. Gotta’ make a call.” After walking out
of earshot, he dialed the number.
“Maxine? This is Leon. I’ve decided what I’m going to
do with Charlie.”
“Oh good, Leon. What are you going to do?”
“I’m gonna’ kill him. I’m gonna’ stab him in the brain
with an ice pick.”
“No you’re not, Leon.”
“Yes, I am. I’m gonna’ kill him graveyard dead. It’s
the best thing for everybody.”
“You can’t do that, Leon. Besides he’s already dead.
You say that about every one of them, but later, you always
find a way to help them be better.”
“Well, if I can help this one, it will be a miracle.
The Lord himself is going to have to help me with Charlie.”
“How can I be of service?”
said the kindest of voices.
Instantly, Leon regretted having said the words. He
turned to see Jesus – dressed in denim shirt and faded jeans
- smiling at him.
“Oh Lord, I shouldn’t have bothered you. I was just
“Charlie can be a bit trying,”
Jesus laughed. “But I asked that you be assigned to
him because I have such faith in you, old friend. It will be
all right. I know you will do well.”
“How do you know that,
Lord?” Leon asked.
“Because I believe in you,
” He said. “I have
faith in you, son.” And He
The day wore on, Leon watching Mitch and the horses,
and Charlie talking non-stop for the entire time. Later
that evening, both angels watched as Mitch went into the
city for dinner with friends. Afterwards, as Mitch walked
back to his truck through the dark downtown streets, a voice
came from the shadows of an alley…
“Cowboy? Hey, Mr. Cowboy? You couldn’t spare some
change for an old man down on his luck, could you?”
Mitch peered into the darkness seeing nothing. Then,
an old gnarled and twisted hand came from the dark, palm
upward. Mitch reached into his pocket and took out a
ten-dollar bill. He put the money in the old man’s hand
with tenderness, and walked on saying nothing. Halfway down
the block, he heard the words from the blackness…
“Mercy, brother! Mercy! Ten dollars? Mercy,
brother. Oh, what mercy!”
At that moment, Leon, watching from above, leaned
forward and opened his journal. Turning to the section
marked “Mitch,” he ran his finger across the page until he
found the column marked “Least of These.” In the box under that column, Leon carefully placed a small plus
“Whoa! Hold it right there, old partner,” said
Charlie, staring over Leon’s shoulder. Leon turned to look
at Charlie. “What?” he asked.
“There’s your problem right there,” said Charlie.
“That old bum’s just gonna’ drink up that money. No way in
the world Mitch should get a plus sign for helping that old
fool get drunk. You need to change that. Bum’s just gonna’
drink that money up.”
Leon sighed again and focused solely on holding his
tongue. “Charlie…” he began quietly. “Charlie…I’m
not assigned to watch the bum.”
Charlie started to say something, then stopped. There
was silence for a time.
“I’m not doing too good at this angel business, am I?”
he asked Leon. Leon said nothing.
“Didn’t do very good at life either,” Charlie added
quietly. “Hit a train. Died in a wreck at thirty.”
“How did you hit a train?” asked Leon.
“It’s easy…if you’re drunk,” said Charlie, with deep
regret and shame in his voice.
Leon thought for a time, then said “Well actually, I
think you will do fine. It will be all right.”
“Yeah, right,” Charlie laughed. “How do you know
“Well, uh…well, because I have faith in you,” said the
“You do?” Charlie asked, unable to hide his surprise.
“Oh, yeah,” said Leon. “You know, actually I asked for
you. I asked that you be assigned to me.”
“You’re kidding,” said Charlie, stunned. “Why did you
“Uh, well,” Leon stuttered. Then he remembered the
words that had helped him so.
“Because I believe in you. I have faith in you, son.”