by Vic Leanza

It was a Sunday morning. I awakened early and went through the usual routine: coffee, fruit, cereal, shower, shave, dress and head for downtown.

I left the house at 7 a.m. and walked to the bus stop at the end of our street using my white cane as skillfully as I could since there are no sidewalks in our neighborhood. The bus came at 7:15 a.m. I greeted the driver as I stepped on and found my way to a seat with the help of a couple of passengers. When we reached downtown Cleveland after about 40 minutes, the driver told me that we would soon be reaching the stop that I wanted. I got off at St. Clair and East 9th Street. Even though I am somewhat familiar with most of the streets in downtown Cleveland, I had not been going downtown very often since retiring.

I headed in the direction that I thought was west, intending to find the Crown Plaza Hotel, where the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired was holding a three-day conference. After walking for several minutes and finding no familiar cues, I listened for the sound of footsteps. There was only the sound of a distant train and a few cars.

I waited nervously for a while and suddenly heard someone cough. I hollered, "Excuse me. Is someone there?" A man hollered back, "Wait right there." When he reached me, I explained that I wanted to get to the Crown Plaza Hotel. He said that I was headed in the wrong direction and that he would guide me there.

I took his arm and as we were walking along, he and I began talking. He told me that he was homeless and had slept under a bridge near the Cleveland Browns Stadium. I asked him how he was able to get food and he said that there were some "good people" out there who would give him money.

When we reached the hotel and walked in, a security guard came up to us and asked me if there was something wrong. I said "no" but the guard stayed with us until we reached the front desk. I thanked the homeless man and gave him some money. He was very grateful and as he departed, I felt an emotion that I cannot describe.

As the security guard led me to the elevator, he explained that he had become concerned about me because something did not look right. I was pretty sure that the contrast between the way I was dressed and the way the homeless man was dressed had triggered something in his mind.

When I reached the conference registration area, some people whom I did not know helped me register. Afterward I walked into the room where breakfast was being served. I met some friends whom I had not seen in several years, and we caught up on some news. I attended workshops on adaptive computer technology for people who are visually impaired. Then I found another friend, and we had lunch together.

After that, I left the hotel and headed toward the Cleveland Public Library. I'd been wandering around for a while when someone asked me if I needed help. I told her I was trying to find my way to the Cleveland Public Library, where there was to be a lecture by a famous author. She told me that she was going to the same lecture and I took her arm.

After the lecture, I planned to ride the Shaker Rapid, which is an intra-urban electric train line. I walked the three blocks west to Public Square, but apparently I made a wrong turn in the middle of the square, because a lady asked where I was going. When I told her that I was trying to find the Shaker Rapid line, she said that she was going to ride it too. We walked together through the complicated area known as Tower City. When we reached the turnstiles, she needed to get change. She had trouble with the change machine, so I helped her with it.

We rode the train together and discovered that we both had extensive experience with sailing. She said that before her husband died, she sailed with him on the Atlantic Ocean and they had owned a house along the coast of Maine. She had told me that she needed to get off at Shaker Square, so when we reached that stop, I reminded her. She was grateful; she touched my shoulder and said she hoped to see me again.

The train rolled on. When the electronic announcement system called my stop, I got off the train. I planned to attend a dinner meeting and program at a nearby church. I knew I needed to walk several blocks uphill to reach the church. My confidence was beginning to founder, but I forged ahead.

After several blocks, I realized that I was no longer walking uphill. I knew I was fairly close to the church, though. After several joggers passed me, a man who was talking on a cell phone approached me. I heard him tell his daughter that he would call her back. Then he turned his full attention to me. I asked him if this street was Eaton Road. He said no, and offered to walk with me to the church.

As we headed along, he told me that he was going through some difficult times with his daughter and that he had an unemployed son who had moved back home with him and that his wife was in Boston trying to help another daughter who was severely depressed.

When we reached the church, he guided me into the room where the meeting would take place. I was early, so we sat at one of the tables. He wanted to finish his story. Then he thanked me for listening. He thought talking to me had helped him calm down. As he left, I had a feeling which is difficult to describe.

Some women from the church arrived and began setting tables. They greeted me, but mostly talked among themselves. I was glad about that because my mind was elsewhere. I was reflecting on the day and the several angels with whom I had made contact. I was glad that I would be getting a ride home with another angel, my wife. I guess there are angels everywhere.

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