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Do you believe in ghosts?

By Stacie Chadwick

Reading between the Pines
In 1992, I was young and living in Chicago, a place so cold in the winter that the biting, frigid wind would cut you in half before you’d barely taken a step. It was on that kind of night, having worked late and in a hurry, that I jumped into my car and began the long drive home.

Just as I gained speed, my car started to sputter. In my haste to get to work that morning, I’d forgotten one small detail … to look at my gas gauge. Before running out of fuel, I was able to ease my car onto an exit ramp right in front of Chicago’s worst gang-riddled, drug-controlled high-rises.

There were no cellphones back then, so to get help I had to walk right into the heart of the housing development. The snow was falling with a hard sense of urgency, and the swirl of nameless faces around me faded in and out, like ghosts. Lost, I stumbled and caught myself, the slick pavement beneath me a sheet of icy snow. The temperature had plunged to a degree that shocked my lungs and made my nostrils cringe.

I looked left, then right, only to see building after building that could offer no shelter. In that moment, surrounded by strangers in a dangerous place, I lost something critical to finding my way. Hope.

And then something miraculous happened.

“I know you,” I heard from behind.

“Excuse me?” I replied. Startled, I turned to find an old lady who had come out of nowhere, bundled up in her winter clothes.

“I saw you from the bus when your car broke down,” she said. “Follow me.”

We didn’t talk, but weaved around multiple, desolate buildings and moved deeper into the projects, finally coming to a county hospital. I have no idea how we got there and couldn’t replicate the path. She led me to a bank of phones and gave me a quarter.

“Call 911” she instructed, “and tell them where to find your car.” I did exactly as she said. When I turned to thank her for the quarter and for taking time to help me, she was gone. She’d literally disappeared into thin air.

Sometimes I sit on the right side of life’s line, and other days on the left. On that night, however, I was front and center, fully in someone’s sight. I don’t know why or how, but something much bigger than me was at play, and it was an experience so profound that I have no choice but to believe.




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