From the #1 New York Times and international bestselling authors of An Invisible Thread comes a heartwarming and inspiring book about the incredible impact that acts of kindness from strangers can have on the world around us.
One day in 1986, Laura Schroff, a busy ad sales executive, passed an eleven-year-old boy panhandling on the street. She stopped and offered to take him to McDonald’s. Twenty years later, at Laura’s fiftieth birthday party, Maurice Mazyck gave a toast, thanking Laura for her act of kindness, which ended up changing the course of his life. In that toast, Maurice said that when Laura stopped on that busy street corner all those years ago, God had sent him an angel.
Laura’s invisible thread journey has deepened her belief that angels—divine and otherwise—are all around us. After An Invisible Thread was published in 2011, readers from all over began sharing with Laura their own stories about how chance encounters with strangers have changed their lives. From a woman who saved a life simply by buying someone a book, to a financier who gave a stranger the greatest gift of all, to a teacher who chose a hug over discipline and changed a lost boy’s future—Angels on Earth introduces remarkable people whose invisible thread stories will move, surprise, and inspire readers. Angels on Earth sheds light on how everyone can live happier, more purposeful lives through sharing random acts of kindness.
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About the Author
Laura Schroff is a former advertising executive who helped launch three of the most successful start-ups in Time Inc. history—InStyle, Teen People, and People StyleWatch. Schroff has also worked as the New York Division Manager at People magazine and as Associate Publisher at Brides magazine. She lives in Westchester, New York.
Alex Tresniowski is a former human-interest writer at People and the bestselling author of several books, most notably The Vendetta, which was purchased by Universal Studios and used as a basis for the movie Public Enemies. His other titles include An Invisible Thread, Waking Up in Heaven, and The Light Between Us.
Read an Excerpt
Angels on Earth
Dru Sanchez is a mother who lives in Tucson, Arizona, and works at a local newspaper there. One day, she drove to a supermarket near her office to grab something to eat at work. As she walked down an aisle, she noticed a family picking out groceries.
The mom, who was in her twenties, was pushing a shopping cart. Her young daughter, maybe three years old, rode in the cart, and two boys, probably six and eight, walked alongside. The boys were helping their mom put items in the cart. They looked like any other family, and Dru walked past them without a word.
A few minutes later, she saw the family again in a different aisle. This time, she noticed the elder boy holding something in his hands.
A small calculator.
The boy was adding up the price of items his mother wished to buy. Dru glanced into their cart and saw that there were no big boxes of cereal, no six-packs of soda, no packages of cookies. Just a few basics—bread, milk, butter, eggs. In that instant, something remarkable happened to Dru.
“The only way I can describe it is that I felt a strong tug on my heart,” she says. “Something was pulling on my heart, and it was telling me, ‘You need to do something for this family.’ ”
But why? Why did Dru have such a strong emotional reaction?
“Because I understood who this mother was,” she says. “She was me.”
Twenty years earlier, Dru had been the struggling single mother of two children. Her ex-husband didn’t provide any support, so it was up to Dru to do everything for her kids—feed them, bathe them, clothe them, get them to day care, deal with their problems—all while working full-time at the Los Angeles Times, first as a clerk and later as a sales manager. She had to drive up to ninety minutes each way to get to work, which left her even less time to be with her children.
“It was a real struggle,” she says now. “I was lucky that I had a good job, but there were times when I had to hustle the kids into an after-school or day care program, and then I’d pick them up and have to tell the people I couldn’t afford to pay them. They always let me go, and I always promised to pay it forward.”
Many times, Dru went shopping with her kids. She didn’t use a calculator, but she had to be careful about what went into her cart. Even so, her children always got what they needed, and sometimes even what they wanted.
Twenty years later, in that supermarket in Tucson, she saw her younger self in the mother with three children.
“I could tell this was a family just trying to survive,” Dru says. “I knew these children weren’t going to get all the food they needed, and I knew their mother knew it, too. And I imagined how heartbreaking that must have been for her.”
Still, Dru passed the family by and went to another aisle.
A few minutes later, she ran into them again in a different aisle.
“That was God telling me, ‘Okay, here’s your chance,’ ” she says. “It was God saying, ‘You’re going to do this, and you’re going to do it now.’ ”
Slowly, Dru approached the family. When she had been a struggling single mother herself, Dru never asked anyone for help and probably wouldn’t have accepted it had it been offered. Now, she understood this mother might feel the same way.
“Excuse me,” Dru finally said. “I don’t mean to offend you at all, but . . . I would like to buy your groceries.”
Dru braced for what could have been an embarrassing moment. But it never came. Instead, the mother looked at Dru and started crying.
“Really?” the mother asked.
“Yes, yes,” Dru said, suddenly wiping tears from her own eyes. “You finish your shopping, and I will meet you up front.”
Then Dru quickly walked away. She didn’t want anyone else in the store to see what she was doing. She stood near the cash registers and waited patiently for the family to finish shopping and come up.
Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then fifteen.
The family never came up.
Dru worried that she had offended the mother, that she was too proud to let someone pay for her groceries. Maybe they’d even sneaked out a side exit.
Dru went to one of the cashiers and bought a one hundred-dollar gift certificate. Then she went looking for the family.
She found them in the produce section. Before the mother could say anything, Dru handed her the gift card.
“I don’t want to make you rush,” Dru said. “I just want to give you this. Please take it. That’s all.”
The mother took the gift card, looked at Dru, and raised her arms. Then she leaned in and hugged Dru tightly. Dru hugged back.
“It was overwhelming,” Dru says. “We were both crying like babies.”
Finally Dru pulled back and walked away. She wanted to give the family some privacy. She walked a few steps, then heard a voice.
Dru turned around and saw the woman’s two boys running right at her. When they got to her, they jumped up and wrapped their arms around her. They held her and hugged her and said “thank you” over and over. Their mother hadn’t told them to do it. They just did it. Dru tried to keep it together, but she couldn’t.
“I just broke out sobbing,” she says. “The boys hugging me was a feeling unlike anything I’d ever felt in my life. I understood the moment between the mother and me. But I didn’t expect the kids to hug me. I didn’t expect them to feel the same emotion. And they did! They felt the same thing in their hearts that I felt! It was unbelievable.”
Dru finally left the store and went back to work, still sobbing. She didn’t tell anyone about what happened, but she couldn’t stop thinking about it herself. “It was this profound moment for me,” she explains. “In that moment, it was as if I learned what life was really about.”
Dru returned to the supermarket a few times, hoping to see the family again. But she never did. Still, she now looked at all the shoppers differently. She looked at everyone differently. Her eyes were open in a way they’d never been before. “I am always on the lookout now for a situation to do something positive,” she says. “That one hug infused me with something really powerful, and I don’t think it’s ever going away.”
Dru knew the gift card wouldn’t change that family’s life. All it could do was maybe take some pressure off the mother and make her struggle a tiny bit easier. Then again, she realized, that’s all it had to do.
“It is about trying to give someone what they need at that moment,” Dru says. “That was my only thought. ‘Can I give this woman a little breather? Can I help her just a little at this moment?’ I realized that God puts us in each other’s paths just for this reason—so that we can help each other in big ways and small ways, too.”
Today, Dru still has her eyes open for ways she can help. In line at supermarkets, she’s always watching to see if someone can’t afford their groceries. Then she offers to help—sometimes fifteen cents, sometimes fifteen dollars. And every time it happens, it fills her with joy and gratitude. “Those feelings are irreplaceable,” she says. “They make you understand your place in a difficult world. I may never see that family again, but I’ll always remember that moment, and I think they will, too. I’d like to think that when the children grow up, they will do the same thing for others.”
One hundred dollars and a hug. That’s all that was exchanged. But the exchange itself created something far bigger, far more powerful, far more lasting.
“Sometimes,” says Dru, “we just have to let someone know we care about them.”
Table of Contents
Part 1 Kindness 13
Chapter 1 The Hug 15
Chapter 2 The Garage Door 23
Chapter 3 The Wallet 31
Chapter 4 The Neighbor 39
Part 2 Yesness 47
Chapter 5 The Snowstorm 49
Chapter 6 The Knock 57
Chapter 7 The Bookstore 67
Chapter 8 The Mitzvah 75
Part 3 Outwardness 81
Chapter 9 The Donor 83
Chapter 10 The Twenty-five Tacos 93
Chapter 11 The Six Cups of Coffee 101
Chapter 12 The Sweater 111
Chapter 13 The Helper's High 119
Part 4 Awareness 125
Chapter 14 The Friendship 127
Chapter 15 The First Word 139
Chapter 16 The Hurricane 149
Chapter 17 The Twins 159
Chapter 18 The Tug 169
Part 5 Uniqueness 175
Chapter 19 The Advance 177
Chapter 20 The Five 185
Chapter 21 The Babysitter 195
Chapter 22 The Bargain 207
Part 6 Clearness 215
Chapter 23 The Facilitator 217
Chapter 24 The Purpose 225
Chapter 25 The Garden 235
Chapter 26 The Warning 245
Chapter 27 The Rabbit 257
Chapter 28 The Sunburn 265
Part 7 Connectedness 273
Chapter 29 The Child 275
Chapter 30 The Rainbow 287