This post is a departure of what we usually write about here on this blog but it goes along with the theme and mission of our Fredette Family Foundation…. and that is to help and be of service to one another in any way that we can.
I want to tell you of an unexpected time that I had the opportunity to help and be of service to someone. I’m not sure that I told my children (maybe I mentioned it in passing to Lindsay, my daughter) but if they read this they will read it for the first time. This is not to brag about helping someone, but rather I’m considering it a blessing for me to help this man named Mr. Kelly, who I’ve never forgotten, even though it was more than 20 years ago. On this day he called me his guardian angel. Let’s just say that I received much more than I gave to him. This is my story.
The time of year was in late Fall when the nights were starting to get very cool. For some reason, and I can’t even remember why, I was coming in on the Amtrak train from NYC to the Ft. Edward, NY station, about 50 miles north of Albany. My husband was scheduled to pick me up at 9:00 PM. Finally we got to my stop and I exited the train. I was the only person that was to get off there…so I thought. My husband was not there yet but I knew that he would be coming along soon, so I stood under the overhang of the rooftop of the station. This particular station and its services for passengers coming in had been long since abandoned and there was no activity or signs of life around this old, crooked, dark building. The only light I had was from the street light that was adjacent to me.
Usually when all of the passengers exit the train at their destinations, the door closes swiftly behind them and they take off immediately. This night they didn’t speed away as I expected. I noticed when I exited and turned around to face the train about 20 feet away, in the light of the doorway, stood the conductor talking to a man. He was a smallish older gentleman with white hair. As I observed them further, I noticed that the white haired man had an oxygen tank that he wheeled along side of him. They spoke for a few minutes and I could sense that there was a desperate aura around both of them. From the hand gestures of the older man, I could tell that he was upset over something. The conductor seemed to be in a quandary as to what to do because he was under pressure to keep the schedule of the train.
Finally the conductor looked out of the train and spotted me standing there under the very dimly lit area. He came out to me carrying the man’s suitcase, set it down beside me, and asked if I could help this man. He needs a ride. To his great relief, I said sure I’ll help him. The conductor assisted the man out of the train with his oxygen tank and they both came over. The conductor thanked me and the man just nodded with a smile. I hadn’t even done anything yet, but I guess I relieved the anxiety that both of them were experiencing at the time. I felt no fear of this small, white haired stranger even though it was just him and I in an area with very little light. How afraid would anyone be of a small old man with tubes in his nose from the oxygen tank that assisted him with his breathing? The conductor waved to us, hurried back to the train and it soon departed.
The man and I introduced ourselves and as he told me his name, both first and last, all I picked up was his last name….Kelly. So I just called him Mr. Kelly. He was a very friendly, animated man and it didn’t take me long to notice that he didn’t speak like a person from the USA. He had a thick accent that was unmistakable to me as to where he was from. I could hear that he was from England and I was guessing, but almost certain, that he was from a particular part of England because he spoke just like The BEATLES did! Not like the royal family British accent, but from Beatle-land!!!…. Liverpool, England!!! Anyone that knows my group of friends from our teenage years, knows that we LOVED the Beatles. We actually were able to go to Shea Stadium, thanks to one of my aunts who lived in that area, to see them in concert. Yes, we were fanatics and picking up on someone else that spoke in that particular accent and dialect was easy! It’s like the difference in how a person from Brooklyn, NY speaks as opposed to upstate NY. Very different and very distinguishable. So I proceeded to ask him where he was from….sure enough, he was from Liverpool, England!
Mr. Kelly told me that he was under the impression that there would be a full service train station here and that he would be able to catch a taxi or a shuttle service to get to his hotel. It was then that I realized how desperate and fearful he must have felt as he looked out the window of the train approaching his stop. It was not filled with the activity of a full service train station, but rather a dark, desolate, empty train station. Ft. Edward, NY is a great, friendly, little town, but it’s a very small town where most people settle in for the night and there is not much action on the streets. Anyone of us can imagine the fear that Mr. Kelly must have felt being in, not only in an unknown dimly lit town, but in an unknown country. An able bodied Mr. Kelly could have gotten some help somewhere by someone…. but this was a vulnerable, weakened man depending on oxygen to keep him alive.
He was here to have a reunion with some of his old friends and they choose to meet in beautiful Lake George, NY. Seemed like it was on their “bucket list” to meet one last time. When I look back I think about the determination and great desire he had to fulfill this last journey in his life. It clearly wasn’t an easy trip for him to make. Since his friends also weren’t very familiar with this area, they assumed Mr. Kelly would not have a problem getting a taxi to bring him up to the hotel. This was back in the days when we didn’t have the convenience of calling someone on their cell phone.
My husband, Al, soon arrived and I told him that we needed to give this man a ride up to Lake George. If you know Al, you know how kind and charitable he is. He would have carried the man up there on his back if he had to just to help him out, so of course he said… “hop in, no problem.” Mr. Kelly insisted that we didn’t need to do that but rather just give him a ride to where he could make a phone call or to a taxi service. He was such a nice man and so grateful just to be in contact with people willing to help him in this strange, unfamiliar country. We wouldn’t hear of that and gave him a ride straight up to the Lake George hotel.
We let him sit in the front seat to make it easier on him with his oxygen tank and put his luggage in the back. I sat in the middle of the back seat so I could eagerly lean forward to hear him talk. I so enjoyed hearing that accent. Of course it didn’t take me long to ask the big question. I couldn’t resist. After all, he was from the land of The Beatles. “Did you ever see the Beatles play in Liverpool?” I asked. He laughed a little and was very forthcoming with his stories about the Beatles. I was thrilled to hear, yes, he did see them. He called them “lads” and said he saw them before they were called “The Beatles”. He said they were called the Quarrymen and several other names before they settled on The Beatles. I knew he was right because I was an expert on the history of The Beatles. They were just starting out when Mr. Kelly would see them and there were guys that were in and out of the original band. They were a work in progress but they were beginning to become popular in the area “pubs,” as he called them. Little did Mr. Kelly know how popular they would become. He said that many similar group bands were springing up all over Liverpool and all over the whole country of England. It was called the British Invasion when they began to filter into the United States. If you grew up anywhere near the 60s, you are well aware of those times. What great music that was and actually still is. It was like a walk back to my teen years as Mr. Kelly talked. So we very much enjoyed our conversation with his lively personality with an intriguing Liverpool accent. He called it a “scouser” accent for those of you interested in looking it up. Just a thought I’ve always had….have you ever noticed that when a person that has a British accent or any accent, sings, the accent goes away? Interesting how that happens. It definitely happened in the Beatles’ music.
Finally we arrived up at the hotel in Lake George. We helped him in and waited to make sure that his friends were there. They were….and he invited them down to meet us. Very nice also and were grateful after they heard that there was no transportation for Mr. Kelly at the station other than us….he obviously was their much loved friend. They asked us if they could take us to dinner the next night but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. Before we left, we exchanged addresses so we could maybe keep in touch. The next day sometime during late morning, I got a knock on the door. As I looked out, I saw a big beautiful bouquet of flowers ready to be delivered to me. I looked at the card and it read….”To my guardian angel.” Thank you….(signed) Mr. Kelly
I think when he got back to England, we wrote at least one time to each other but that was it. Mr. Kelly was not a well man. He told us of a heart problem that he had and after listening to him struggle to breathe, I understood that this trip was probably the last trip that he would take. I felt strongly that he probably passed away a couple of months after he arrived home.
Some might say how lucky he was to have me there to help him to his destination…. but I say how lucky and blessed I was to meet such a wonderful, lovely, friendly man like Mr. Kelly. I’m sure that 100% of those reading this would have done the same thing to help this man, so I don’t feel special in that way, but I feel like maybe I was meant to be there at that time to meet him. What a blessing and a privilege it was for me.
I think that opportunities and certain special situations in life are all about timing. Some good, some bad. You hear people say that you were in the “right place at the right time” and you also hear about being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” I think that we sometimes find ourselves in a situation on God’s perfect timing. My husband is never late and he is very respectful of me when it comes to picking me up….but on this night, for the first time, he was late. If he hadn’t been late, I would have been gone and there would have been no one there to help this man…. who actually reminded me of my father. I believe that was an example of God’s timing.
Mr. Kelly said that I was “his guardian angel” and I’d like to think that that was true. I wasn’t a guardian angel in the mystical sense where I appeared out of nowhere then magically disappeared. (although I believe that can happen and has happened to people). There used to be a song back in the Oldies era called “Earth Angel”. I think that’s maybe what I was…an earth angel for Mr. Kelly. Every single one of us has the chance or potential to be someone else’s “earth angel”. Those opportunities present themselves to us every day. A kind word or a kind gesture may be all it takes to change someone’s day…. or even someone’s life.
Would Mr. Kelly have made it to his hotel in Lake George without my help? Yes maybe he would have, but not without much fear and anxiety for him. I think he would have had to sit down on someone’s porch steps so that he could rest. The center of town where he may have possibly found a phone or a place open, was about a quarter of a mile away….that’s over 1300 steps that this poor man would have had to take wheeling his oxygen tank and carrying his luggage through an unknown, lonely, dark street. He would have had to choose whether to go left or right, and if he guessed wrong, it would have taken him on an even longer route. The average person would have no problem making it up the street, but for Mr. Kelly and all of his health challenges, it would have been tough.
So the point of my story is that you never know when you are going to be called upon and be given the honor and priviledge to be of service to someone else…..someone’s earth angel. I’m sure many of you have stories like this and have received the blessing of being able to help someone in need. The “feeling” that you receive when you have helped someone and gone that extra mile is something very special. It’s like on Christmas day….we all like to get a present or two but how much more fun and special is it to watch someone open something that you picked out for them. It’s no accident that are spirits soar and we feel good when we do something nice for someone else. It’s how we are all wired. Just like when we do something bad to someone or do something wrong, we feel bad inside.
In closing, this is not to say that you don’t have to be careful in helping out total strangers, because you do, but in the case of Mr. Kelly, my instincts told me that he was no one to fear and I think if you rely on that and the spirit, you will know too.
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time,