My brother in law loves to tell a story about when he and his father, Mango's father, were shopping at Home Depot some years ago. As he and his dad were walking the aisles, they saw ahead of them a man pushing a cart of long metal pieces. From the side a little boy was approaching, who was eye level with the metal but too small to be seen by the cart "driver." As the metal pieces and the boys eyes were about the collide at right angles, my father in law strode forward, reached down, and placed a gloved hand at the end of the metal pieces all in one fluid motion. The boy and the cart missed each other. Neither knew that a disaster had just been averted, but a store employee, who was some distance away and had been holding his breath, saw the whole thing. Shaking his head at the close call, he congratulated my father in law on his quick, calm, and flawless response.
Every time I hear that story I get chills, and I love to listen to my brother in law tell it. I am struck by the way our lives are like this. We can't stop time or replay ourselves in slow motion in order to see the many ways that we have been saved by the hands of another. Just as my father in law moved fluidly through this moment, stepping forward, reaching out a hand, covering the sharp endings, and then moving on without so much as a shout or a sideways glance, our own lives flow on without stopping for us to see the near misses, the "almosts" and the calm buffering of strong, experienced hands.
Yet, just as certainly as I know this story is true, I know that my own story has similar moments. Sometimes we are lucky enough to bear witness to one of the instances, as my brother in law was, and we can hold that one moment of fluid time cupped in our hands like a clear drink of water. We are revived and strengthened in bearing witness.