Angels Watching Over Me, Part II


As I sat down to take the tests, there were very particular and strict directions about what to do and not do during and after the test.  One of the directions was to not write anything down after the test. 

Parts of the tests were computerized and other parts were written.  As I took the tests, I remembered my Jamaican angel.  I also remembered what it says in the Big Book about when we are nervous:  “We relax and take it easy.  We don’t struggle.  We are often surprised how the right answers will come after we have tried this for a while.”  And boy, did I need right answers.

Well, after a couple hours, I finished.  I was shaking.  I could see two out three test scores on the computer screen, and I could see I had passed them.  And even though I knew I passed them and would be getting an official transcript in a few weeks, I still wanted to remember my scores right then.  So, ignoring the rule not to write anything down after the tests (rules apply to me?), I tore off a teensy, tiny, little scrap of paper and wrote down my scores.  What harm could that do? 

I gathered my belongings from a locker and left.  I walked down the hallway and got to the elevators.  I pushed the down button and as I was waiting for the doors to open, I noticed the test administer rushing out of the room.  She looked a bit frantic.  She spotted me. 

“I need that little piece of paper you wrote on,” she said.  “We know you wrote something, and we have to disqualify your scores if you don’t give me that paper.”

Luckily I had it and didn’t lie like I would have a few years prior when I got caught doing something wrong. I just gave her the paper and told her what I had done.  She assured me it would be OK now that she had the piece of paper, and then sternly admonished me for not following directions.  She reminded me how lucky I was that she found me.  I thanked her profusely and turned to press the button on the elevator.  It dawned on me then that she was another angel.  She didn’t have to come looking for me.  And whoever was operating the camera that caught me writing my down my scores was another angel.

I was still shaking, when the doors finally opened.  And there, standing with a big, beautiful grin, was the Jamaican parking garage attendant.

“You passed, didn’tcha’ mon?”  he asked. 

“Yes, I passed,” I said, as my face was flushed with a child-like pride.  And as I looked up at him, my mind was swirling with the thought, “What was he doing in here?  Shouldn’t he be in the parking garage?” 

Trembling with relief and joy, I stepped into the elevator with him.  He pushed the button to close the doors. 

“Good, mon.  I knew you would pass, mon.  But the real test is now.”

“What do you mean? I asked.

“You need to apply what you learned to help the children that are coming to you.  That’s the real test, mon.” 

And as we walked together back to the parking garage and to my car, I had such a deep gratitude for God’s Love and Mercy.  I thanked the angel, gave him as big of a tip as I had to give, and got in my car.  He handed me the keys.  “Peace, mon,” he said.

And I swear when I looked back to see him again as I was driving out of that place—he was gone.


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Angels Watching Over Me, Part I


During the workshop I presented on the Wonder Child at the Emmet Fox weekend a few weeks back, I told of a miracle that happened to me two years ago.  It is a popular story, so I thought I’d share it here.  After all, someone might be doubting their dreams, or that God loves them, or they might be feeling like some situation they are facing will never work out.  It’s a story for anyone frightened about facing some difficult task.  It’s a story about me, a praxis test, and a Jamaican parking-garage attendant.  I hope you like it.

A couple of years ago I decided to go to grad school to get certified to teach in public schools.  To do so I had to take a series of praxis tests that to me, seemed quite daunting.  I studied as best I could, even though every time I sat down to study I’d be compelled to fall asleep.  Anyway, I studied hard and the day finally came when I had to take the tests that would make or break my teaching in a public school.

Terrified, I drove downtown Philly to take the tests.  When I got there I couldn’t find any place to park close by the building where the tests were being administered.  Feeling very annoyed, I drove around until I found a parking garage several blocks away.  I pulled in and I didn’t realize until it was too late that it was a valet parking garage.  I hate valet parking garages because I have a few “tiny” OCD tendencies—well, control freakish tendencies really–I don’t like anyone else touching my stuff, that’s all.  But there was a car behind me so I couldn’t back up.

I was cursing under my breath as the attendant walked up to my car.  He leaned into the window and said in a wonderful Jamaican accent:

“Hey, mon, welcome, mon…You’re here for the praxis tests, aren’tja mon?”

“Ah…Yes,” I began…wondering how the heck he knew…but before I could get too much further he said, “You’re going to do great, mon.  Just remember to breathe mon.  You’re going to pass mon.  No worries, mon.  Just relax and have fun mon.” 

And right there, in a downtown Philly parking garage, I met an angel.  He helped put me at ease.  And as I handed him my keys and got out of the car, he said once more, “Remember to breathe, mon.” 

I thanked him and began walking the several blocks to the testing center.  I was still a little nervous, but there was a lightness to my steps.  I knew the Wonder Child, the God that runs my life, was at work. 

I finally found the building and went in.  And I will tell you tomorrow what happened next.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

This Week in Kindergarten

One of the biggest little hellions that I teach came up to me today and asked how to spell my name.  My heart leapt a little as I wrote it on a piece of paper and gave it to him.  He ambled back to his seat and sat down and laboriously began copying what I wrote.  Writing is a real chore for this young man. 

He wrote slowly, tongue sticking out, head a millimeter above his paper.  And a few minutes later he strutted up and asked how to spell, “I love you.”  I nonchalantly wrote it for him and made sure to smile after he went back to his seat.  My heart sang.  Not because of being so unabashedly loved by a 5 year old, but because he felt love in his heart to write that.  This boy has been suspended four times in four weeks.  This little boy is almost incapable of feeling empathy.  This little boy’s dad is in jail.  He never sees him.  This little boy has deep emotional and psychological issues.  And this little boy was writing me a note that said he loved me.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better he came back and asked:  “How do you write, ‘You’re the best teacher?’”

I have been Golden Keying this young man for several weeks now (see blog entry, “Weekend Retreat, Part II”).  I have been striving to completely block out the problems he brings to the class—the chair throwing, the punching and fighting of classmates and other staff members, the middle finger going up, the running across the tables and running out of the building—all of it, and replacing these with a conscious realization of the Presence of God.

And then he walked calmly up to me and handed me his paper.  “I wrote this for you,” he said.  I took the paper, studied it for a few moments, and then put a hand on his shoulder.  I looked him straight in the eye, and said, “I love you too.”  A few students standing nearby screamed, “EEEKKK…He said he loved Nasir.”  To which I looked at all of them and said, “I love all of you.”  More screaming ensued, and then a sort of stunned silence settled in the room as those words slowly sank in.

“You do?” one little girl asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Another silence, and then:

“Can you be our Daddy?” one of them asked.

I looked as deeply into their eyes as they would let me and then said:

“No.  But while I’m here with you I can be your teacher.  And I can love you.”

“Can I live next door to you?” another asked.

“Maybe someday,” I smiled.

And then we had snack and went on with our day.

Did I have to call security later that day when Nasir tried to fight a hall monitor and a seventh grader at the same time?  Yes.  That’s not the point of the Golden Key however.  The prayer changes me and my response to him.  When my thoughts change about him and I begin to see him as a Child of God, he does change, slowly, but surely—it’s a happy by-product of the Golden Key.

And as I restrained him until security came, I looked down into his wide, frightened eyes, and said, “No matter what you do.  I will always love you.”  He cried and cried, moaning, “I want to go home.”

“I know,” I said, “I know.”

And I filled myself with a prayer for this little jangling bundle of nerve endings named Nasir, and then handed him over to security.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Here and Now


I am listening to a cassette tape that’s 29 years old.  It’s of my mother and I teaching preschool catechism classes.  I was 14 and her assistant.  It was my first teaching job. 

Her voice is light and musical.  She leads the children in a prayer: “Dear God, I am your little child.  Thank You for my family.  Amen.”   

She tells the students I am her son and that I will be her helper, and that I am a good drawer. 

She tells them not to run outside after class is over.  She doesn’t want them to get hit by a car.

She tells them they will have a snack and asks me to pass out vanilla wafers and lemonade.  We sit picnic style on the floor. I hear myself whistling in the background.

While they’re eating, she shows me a house she drew that she is planning on showing them. “Oh is that what that is?”  I tease.  She laughs and says, “I know you could do better, Smarty.”

She turns on a record of Carey Landry and everyone is singing, “Oh, How I Love Jesus,” as they draw pictures of their houses and their families.  I hear myself singing.  It’s like listening to a ghost.  It’s me, I recognize the timber, but it’s so much thinner and crackly with adolescent changes.  The record begins to skip.  We laugh.  I give the needle a nudge.

At the end of class she asks the children if they were good enough to deserve lollipops.  “Yes,” I pipe up.  She gives everyone, including me, a lollipop. 

I hear us sending off the last of the children.  We are outside.  It must have been a sunny day in spring.

The tape is going to end soon.  I am dreading the moment.  The wheels carry the tape along like a little brown river.  The hazy hiss of the tape is loud as it flows, carrying memories as it goes, like a river carrying pieces of the sun. 

There’s a long quiet period.  I can just barely hear my mother in the distance talking with one of the parents.  I wish I knew what was happening.  I hear the wind blowing over the microphone.  I haven’t said a word in several minutes.  I wonder if I am just standing there watching her.

And then I hear us getting into the car.  The car door shuts.  I hear myself saying: “Oh the tape recorder is still going.”  “Oh you had it on all this time?”  She says.  Then it’s over.  The tape ends.  It just stops.  And with it my heart aches.   I feel suddenly empty.  I don’t know what I was expecting to hear—some kind of secret message?  Just more of her voice?  Part of me wishes I hadn’t turned the tape on.  My feelings are all a bit jumbled.  I feel strangely stunned as if I’ve lost her again.  But no.  It’s just more grief.  I miss her, plain and simple.  There are no regrets—even though regrets are trying to break in and smash the tenderness that exists between us. 

And it is OK.  I can let her voice go.  I can let go of teaching now if I choose.  I do not need to fear being disloyal to her (or my father, who also was a teacher) if I break away and do something else.  I can fulfill my own dreams.  What matters now is that I remember how quickly it can all end.  How suddenly the tape can stop. 

I rise up to meet the rest of the day.  There is a calm, but steady urgency.  The wheels are turning.  There are people to love, dreams to manifest, voices to listen to, here and now. 



Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

Go Slow, Go Far


Nine years ago I was teaching first grade and I took to the practice of writing each of my students a poem for their birthday.  I didn’t believe in giving meaningless homework to first graders so instead I would give them tasks like: memorize their birthday poem—learn it by heart so that it lives there.  Then I had them recite their poem once a week on the day closest to when they were born.  All of the poems I wrote for those first graders were about seeds and about growing.  This particular poem was written for a little girl who desperately wanted to learn to read and was feeling bad that things weren’t moving as fast as she thought they should be.   It’s amazing how the poems I wrote for those first graders still teach me things today.   


In husk and shell a maple tree slept

Deep through winter, quiet and blessed.

She dreamed of swaying through morns and eves,

And standing with starlight draped over her leaves.


“I want to sprout,” the maple tree said,

And a good kindly ground hog over heard from his bed.

“In due time, dear seedling, for grace is not rushed.”

And he fell back to sleep, in the snow-dappled hush.


So the maple tree waited, impatient and weary,

And dozed off to sleep so as not to feel dreary.

One day the sky cried warm tears of joy

And springtime returned for each girl and boy.


The seedling arose, trembling and proud,

Reaching for heaven through rolling white clouds.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Billy Club, Part II


“Selfishness and self-centeredness!  That, we think, is root of our troubles…We must be rid of this selfishness.  We must, or it kills us! (the Big Book)”

So how does self get rid of self?  How can a taker, a user of people, a thief, get rid of selfishness?  The AA Big Book  says God makes that possible.  But how?  How can someone as selfish and grandiose as me travel the path of losing myself in the service of others while at the same time finding myself in the pursuit and fulfillment of my dreams?  How can I break free from a seemingly endless cycle of beating myself up and then resorting to addictive behaviors in order to numb out? 

The answers were locked inside of myself the whole time.  Only I couldn’t’t access them without the keys.  And YOU were one of the keys.  I needed you.  I needed other people to help me get out of myself.  When I sat and listened to your stories I would lose myself in you.  When I tried to help you in any way I could, I was being released from the bondage of self.  In other words, when I let you into my heart, the billy club began to disappear.  Letting you into my heart has not been an easy process.  Carrying the effects of the abuse has colored how I look at the world.  And my vision was one of distrust, shame, paranoia–which brings me to another key: suffering. 

The way I seem to work is: repeat painful, destructive behaviors until they hurt too much and have destroyed so much that I can’t take it anymore.  I smash into the wall over and over and over again, and then, bruised and battered, I ask for help, seek another way—become sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Then I change.  Backed into a corner—no place else to go—I change.  And for the change to stick, I need to replace the destructive behaviors and thought processes with constructive ones, for nature abhors a vacuum.  Hence working the steps, hence working with Emmet Fox, hence playing my music, writing my poetry, hence utilizing affirmations and vision boards, hence creating this blog.  I move through fear and the billy club disappears a little more. 

Of course it is a charmed billy club and can reappear instantly, at the drop of a hat.  And the process of being released from the bondage of self has no finish line.  Working the 12 steps has taught me to see my part in what I do.  They have taught me to clean up my side of the street.  And as I began using Emmet Fox’s work as part of my 11th step, things really blossomed inside and out.   

To sum it up—self-centeredness and the billy club are inextricably linked.  As I move away from one, the other loosens its grip.  And for this to happen, I need you, I need a Design For Living, I need to suffer enough to rise up and make a change.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog

The Billy Club

For years I carried a billy club in my back pocket.  At the slightest perceived violation of unwritten or written rules, I would reach back, pull it out, and proceed to beat myself up.  With every bop on the head, words like: “You dope, you jerk, you idiot, you dork, you dufis,” would fly out of my mind’s mouth and hit me smack in the head. 

I say unwritten because much of the time I was beating myself up for breaking rules that only existed in my fantasies.  They weren’t real.  I would create elaborate scenarios where everyone was looking to see what I did next, said next, how I would screw up next.  For years I actually had a soundtrack running through my mind because I lived steeped in such fantasy that I thought my life was a movie—a summer blockbuster that everyone was watching.  And when I did something or said something I deemed an offense, out came the billy club. 

Of course, I used the billy club when I broke real rules too, but usually only for dramatic effect.  When I broke real rules—it was usually because I felt entitled to do so and wanted to get out of doing something hard—like work.  I acted guilty in front of you so you’d think I was humble and contrite.

I know now I would make up rules just so I could beat myself up more.  I know now I beat myself up not simply because I was beaten and abused as a child, and that “the alcoholic life is the only normal one.”  I also used the billy club to justify using my addictive behaviors.  Those elaborate movie scenes that played on the screen of my mind served as an excuse for me to say, “You don’t understand what I go through; how hard I have it; the pain I’m in.”  And then I could slowly slink off to my little cave of self-indulgent behaviors, smiling a sneaky little smile as I looked at the ground blinking back well trained tears.

I was so grandiosely self-centered that I thought God couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help me.  I was so bad, that the All Mighty, All Merciful, All Forgiving, All Loving, Omnipotent Creator of the Universe couldn’t forgive me.  Now that’s self-centered grandiosity. 

I know today that being abused—emotionally, sexually, and physically, led me to retreat into self to be safe.  I needed fantasy to survive. It was wisdom that created an inner place to revel in, for a while at least, the attention and acceptance I so desperately sought after in my abusers.  But those same behaviors had hooks in them.  They clung, like claws in my soul, and held on for dear life.  Consequently, my dreams and true imagination were stuck—like a pieces of fabric snagged on a thorn bush.  They couldn’t be used for anything helpful.

So what is it like today?  Do I still carry a billy club?  Have I been released from the fantasies?  Come back tomorrow and I’ll share how I got free from letting the billy club and self-centered fantasies own my life.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog