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Sidewalk Angels

By Rev.  Ross W. B. Putnam

Previously published in New Sacred:  A United Church of Christ Blog

Used with permission











“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

Even when a wheelchair-bound friend pointed it out, I didn’t pay much attention to just how uneven sidewalks can be and how difficult to navigate. Then I became dependent on a mobility scooter and realized how significant the problem is.

Granted, many improvements have been made in the travel ways for pedestrians and mobility-challenged folk over recent years. Sidewalks still not only have rough spots like cracks and missing or crumbling sections, they slope when crossing a driveway or intersecting a street.

I was riding on one such sidewalk recently. My wife, Paula, and I had been out and about. Suddenly a number of factors conspired and before either of us could process it—let alone stop it—the scooter and I tipped over and landed at the edge of the travel way. It was, to say the least, a frightening moment.

Convinced that I was alright (one could as easily say “embarrassed to be sprawled out at the edge of the street”), I tried to get up. Paula tried to help, but given the positions of me and the scooter, getting up was proving to be a challenge.

At that moment a vehicle on the street stopped. A man got out and after making sure nothing was broken, he helped Paula get me back on the scooter.

There have been instances when I have encountered “challenges” and no “sidewalk angel” has appeared. This time one did.

We live in what more than a few call divisive, self-centered times. We are witnessing attacks on various programs for the disabled; not the least of which is funding for research.

It is enough to foster cynicism. On this day I witnessed just the opposite. The accident has made me more cautious for sure. That act of caring reminds me to give thanks for experiences of God being “a very present help in trouble,” and to do what I can to make that truth come to light in other people’s lives.

God, help us to be alert to those moments when we are open to your help being offered and ways we can bring that presence and reality to the lives of others. Amen.


Rev. Ross W.B. Putnam is an ordained United Church of Christ minister who has served churches in the Midwest, New England, and California.  He is also a counselor, spiritual director, artist and poet.  Currently, he is working on a book which focuses on the emotional and life rewarding happenings of living with a neurologically debilitating disease. Rev. Putnam has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for nearly a decade.

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