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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:59pm. | | | | |

And Feel His Shield About Thee
Steven G. O'Dell © 2010

A few seconds of obedience can make all the difference in life.

Linda was a mere nineteen years old and in the summer of 1975, she was alive with the excitement and uncertainty of a cross-country bus trip. She had been an exchange student while in high school and she was now a college student away from home, but somehow this was different. She was not tied to the Provo campus now. She was free and on her way to visit the family of a roommate in Bakersfield, California.

Her trip began with a remarkable coincidence. She had called a cab to take her to the bus station where she would begin her trip officially and the driver, for reasons she could not guess, kept staring at her in the rear view mirror in such a way that she became uncomfortable. She tried to ignore him, when suddenly he spoke to her in Danish. She was then all attention. She had been a foreign exchange student in Denmark and this man, it turned out, was one of the missionaries of her church who had known of her while there. What a small world it could be, she thought to herself. What were the odds?

The rest of her trip to the station was pleasant and the catching up a delight, but now the real ordeal began – long hours of sitting, a virtual captive on the bus until she reached her destination.

The bus had now stopped in a small western states town, unremarkable in most respects. A brief restaurant stop, a chance to use the facilities and she would be on the road again. Linda sat at the table in the main window of the restaurant, which sat above the bus station itself. An unusual situation, the station was reachable from the lower street and the restaurant from the upper street; the whole of the building sitting on an uneven corner of two cross-streets. There was also a staircase that tied the levels together.

The sun was just then rising in the eastern sky and Linda reflected upon how beautiful it was after a long night cooped up in a bus. It was certainly preferable to be here, in this soon-to-be sunlit window, than downstairs with all of the cigarette smoke that permeated the station itself. The serenity of the surroundings made what came next all the more bizarre by contrast.

Having a few moments before been outside on the corner, enjoying the fresh air and the new dawn and breeze, Linda had entered the restaurant and taken a place at the table near the window, where she could still see the sunrise and appreciate it. She had not been there long when she was suddenly shaken from her reverie and to instant action by a voice, internal and commanding, and a feeling as of someone grabbing her by the collar and pulling her from her seat. The intent was that she immediately was to go downstairs to the station. This was the last thing she had in mind, entering that smoke-filled room by choice. The station was grubby in her estimation and there were few places she could sit. But she was already on her feet and going there, quickly, with a sense of urgency she did not yet understand. That was soon to come, however.

Within seconds of arriving at the bottom of the stairs, she heard from above a tremendous crash, as an explosion, and the screaming of multiple voices. Standing in shock, she could scarcely move for a moment and was not sure she wanted to. Something terrible had happened above her, in the room she had just left. The screaming, the crash of glass breaking and the awful crushing sound that over-rode all of it were soul-wrenching in nature. This was one of those events that makes you stand paralyzed with fear, unable for a few seconds to move at all.

There was no way to return by the stairs she had just used and Linda exited the station and took the street to the upper level. What she saw made her physically ill and feeling that she was about to vomit. There were bodies lieing on the floor of the restaurant and an intruding automobile that had penetrated the building to the point where customers had stood in line to order and receive food. The path of the auto was directly through the table where she had been sitting only seconds earlier.

When the details were known, it was clear that a car had been coming down the steep hill and another, from the side street, had crashed into it. The first car had continued, as a missile on its new path, directly into the window of the restaurant and through the seat where Linda had been sitting but a scant moment before. There was indeed a casualty, a man having been run over and killed by the intruding automobile. Linda physically shook with the realization that she would have been in the very seat in the path of destruction, had it not been for the warning voice that had moved her forcefully from her daydreaming.

All the bus passengers were asked to return to the bus and wait, which they did. The full details were not made known to them, but the remainder of the bus ride was very different from the previous portion of their journey. Where there had been movement and talking amongst the passengers, there was now silent reflection upon the event they had all been party to. A sense of vulnerability and mortality, a sense of helplessness hung heavily upon them all. It would be some time before confidence and a feeling of personal security would return to each of them. How the world and your viewpoint can change in seconds. The term 'final stop' took on new meaning from then. Linda hadn't taken inventory of the passengers before and after, but she could not escape the thought that for some, it may have indeed been their final stop in this mortal life.

Linda sat on the bus, shaking physically, wanting to cry, but repressing it. Being a teenager alone, she had no desire to draw attention to herself and appear as vulnerable as she truly was at that moment, having been approached already by strange men with ill intent on this trip. She just kept thinking of how she had been in the very path of the car, had been in the very window seat, had been moved by some unseen force, grabbing her or pushing her from her seat, just seconds before.... It was all too much, overwhelming in its intensity and more than a young girl could handle. She wanted it all to go away. She wanted someone, anyone, to hold her and comfort her and she knew no one on this bus who could do that for her. She dared not make herself more vulnerable than she already was. And so she sat alone, scared and shaken more than at almost any other time in her relatively brief life.

Many years have passed since then and Linda has had time to consider what it takes to be ready for passing from this life. She knows that none of the things you collect in mortality can be taken with you. She knows that it matters not what level of achievement you reached in business, how much wealth you accumulated in life. What matters most is how you lived life. Did you live it to the fullest, did you do good unto others, did you strive to become the best person you could be while you were here? And perhaps most important of all, did you live with the faith and obedience necessary to feel the shield of God about you when you needed it most dearly?

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