The flap-flap-flap told me the tire was shot. I've changed many tires in my life, particularly back when I drove clunkers on retreads. But I was young then, and, frankly, I didn't even know how to get to the spare on this SUV, not quite a clunker in spite of its years. So I called AAA. I was on the phone giving directions and resigned to sitting on the side of the road for an hour before the truck came, when a Jeep pulled up and the driver asked if I needed help. I thanked the lady on the phone and hung up.
The young man who graciously offered to help was dressed in flannel shirt, jeans and boots: no-nonsense work clothes but neat and tucked in. He had short hair and a longish beard. Though his accent was Southern, he sounded much better educated than any local. He would not be out of place pulling craft beer in Portland, Oregon. When he introduced himself, I started to reply "Enrique", even though locally I go by Henry because my Spanish name is hard to pronounce here. I caught myself and gave the English version, when he said, "Were you about to say 'Enrique'?" Whoever this dude was, he could pronounce Spanish.
He found the tools and the spare -- he'd had a vehicle like mine and knew where everything was stashed -- and noticed the spare was flat, so he offered to drive me to the local garage. On the way there I learned he was a Baptist pastor at a very small town nearby. He also drove a school bus because he believed in being "bi-vocational" and giving different kinds of service -- he admitted that school bus driving was an ordeal.
I told him I was glad to hear he was a pastor because I no longer felt guilty about accepting all his help. After all, I said, this is part of your vocation. I meant it. As for his Spanish, he had been to South America, and told me how he talked about faith with non-Baptists.
The garage patched up and put air in the spare and ordered a new tire. All the while, the young pastor waited patiently and good-natured. He had been on his way to a meeting, he said, but this was more important. He drove me back and put on the spare. Toward the end he did talk to me about the Bible -- I had told him I was a lapsed Catholic who liked the new Pope but didn't have good feelings about the Church. He quoted chapter and verse, like a good minister of the Book, but did so gently. After all he'd done for me, the least I could do was listen to his soft talk about Jesus.
He asked me to drop by his church anytime and he left. He never stopped smiling, kindly and sincerely.
Perhaps it came from my having see Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, where angels wear beautiful Armani overcoats, but I decided this young, casually elegant, man who looked like a Northwestern hipster but was a Southern Baptist pastor was an angel I'd been sent to rescue me. He was a man of God, a man of the cloth, even if the cloth was denim and flannel. A rural angel. Well turned out in what one wears here. Nothing of the disheveled look of the rural underclass. Angels look good. All religious art shows them to be so.
And his rescue was unconditional, just some low-key Christianity at the end, nothing with which I would disagree and only for a few minutes. Thank you, Lord, whoever you may be, my convictions being much less firm that those of my rescuer. Yes, God is not easy. But angels, they are totally cool.