This essay, first published by the Dallas Morning News on Christmas morning 1967, is a favorite of Dallas newspaper readers and the paper continues to re-print it each year. Some may remember when your morning paper was on your front porch every morning. Nowadays we’re lucky to get it in the vicinity of the front sidewalk somewhere near the property line. This probably explains the rise in sales of bathrobes. Dallasites remember the late Paul Crume as one of the best newspaper column writers until he retired in 1975.
On This Day, Angels Linger Close at Hand
By Paul Crume
A man wrote me not long ago and asked me what I thought of the theory of angels. I immediately told him that I am highly in favor of angels. As a matter of fact, I am scared to death of them.
Any adult human being with half sense, and some with more, knows that there are angels. If he has ever spent any period in loneliness, when the senses are forced in upon themselves, he has felt the wind from their beating wings and been overwhelmed with the sudden realization of the endless and gigantic dark that exists outside the little candle flame of human knowledge. He has prayed, not in the sense that he asked for something, but that he yielded himself.
Angels live daily at our very elbows, and so do demons, and most men at one time or another in their lives have yielded themselves to both and have lived to rejoice and rue their impulses. But the man who has once felt the beat of an angel's wing finds it easy to rejoice at the universe and at his fellow man. It does not happen to any man often, and too many of us dismiss it when it happens. I remember a time in my final days in college when the chinaberry trees were abloom and the air was sweet with spring blossoms and I stood still on the street, suddenly struck with the feeling of something that was an enormous promise and yet was no tangible promise at all.
And there was another night in a small boat when the moon was full and the distant headlands were dark but beautiful and we were lonely. The pull of a nameless emotion was so strong that it filled the atmosphere. The small boy within me cried. Psychiatrists will say that the angel in all this was really within me, not outside, but it makes no difference. There are angels inside us and angels outside, and the one inside is usually the quickest choked.
Francis Thompson said it better. He was a late 19th-century English poet who would put the current crop of hippies to shame. He was on pot all his life. His pad was always mean and was sometimes a park bench. He was a mental case and tubercular besides. He carried a fishing creel into which he dropped the poetry that was later to become immortal.
"The angels keep their ancient places," wrote Francis Thompson in protest. "Turn but a stone, and start a wing." He was lonely enough to be the constant associate of angels. There is an angel close to you this day. Merry Christmas, and I wish you well.