Miracle on Madison Avenue

     Today’s post is a kind of parable, and a true story. If you’ve had a crisis of trust or faith lately, or someone has let you down, this is for you. 

     An extraordinary thing happened to me this week. One of those things that causes you to stop in the middle of whatever– and say wow, that was God, pure and simple.


     Last Monday was a bad day. I mean #crawlunderthebedandhide bad. Cry-on-the-phone-to-my-husband-and-he-doesn’t-even-roll-his-eyes-bad.

     I had to end a years-long working and personal relationship with an associate. The trust between us was compromised. I felt betrayed. It broke my heart. It broke both our hearts.

     Afterward, to collect myself and to calm down, I did what I always do: walk in the park. Right up there with butter and hot sauce, a walk in Central Park can make just about anything better.  An hour later, my mouth dry as cotton, I walked to the coffee shop, Viand, on Madison and 61st, to get a fountain Diet Coke with lemon. It is all about the fountain. You know what I’m talkin’ about.

Photo by Stephane Beir, via Pinterest
Photo by Stephane Bier, via Pinterest

     On most days there is a dude, William, sitting in a wheelchair on the sidewalk outside Viand. He’s a fixture there. Sometimes he sells papers; sometimes he doesn’t. He always speaks and is always pleasant. I always give him a dollar or two on my way out, shake his hand, say God bless you. Sometimes we chat a bit. “Aren’t you on the news?” he asks me. “Naw,” I tell him. Maybe he has me confused with Anderson Cooper.

     So on that black Monday, in a hollow-eyed daze, I chatted with William.

     “Didn’t I see you on the news?” he asked. 

     I laughed, “No!” I said, “And I wasn’t on it the last five times you asked me, either!”

     “Are you sure?”

     “I’m sure.”

     He got out a little slip of paper. “What’s your name?”


     He wrote “To Mrs. Frances” in red pen on the paper, which I saw was a lottery ticket. Mega Millions. $75 million. He actually spelled Frances correctly, with an e, which was kind of a miracle right there.

     “You married?” he asked.

     “Yes.” (Kind of another miracle, but we won’t get into that.)

     “What’s your husband’s name?”


     He wrote, “And to Mr. T.”

     “Oh he’ll like that,” I told him.

     He gave me the ticket.

     “What do I do if it wins?” I asked him. “Bring you the money?”

     “I just want one million,” he said, and flashed a big gap-toothed grin.

     “Okay,” I said. “Good luck.”

     On this of all days, in the wake of a devastating loss of trust, confidence, and faith, a stranger trusts another stranger with his possible (if not probable) fortune. A poor black man panhandling from a wheelchair, entrusts a white girl in a designer suit (who is not a newscaster), to do the right thing.

     What if we won, I started thinking.

     We didn’t.

     And yet we did.

     Next morning, before leaving to catch my plane to Washington for the third and fourth book signing events in as many days, I hoofed it over to Viand. William was there. “We didn’t win,” I said, and gave him the ticket. “I know,” he said, “but I’m ‘on keep playin’ these numbers.”

     I went in to buy my Diet Coke and came back out to William. “I need to tell you something,” I said, “about what you gave me yesterday.” I told him the story, and I cried, right there on Madison Avenue one block from Hermes. I don’t know if he understood, but he understood the gratitude. He understood the grace.

     “Now I’d like a Times, please, William.” I gave him $100 and said keep the change. “Really?” he said. I said yeah. “You gave me more than that, my brother. Thank you.”


  1. Wow I have days like that! Sooo moving all the time yet mine are lucky pennies or chunk of change yet people just like William that make you feel like a breath of fresh air. Hummm if it was Monday the 12th I would say actioned packed day yet you were right on with your #’s & good luck. “Chess Pie” I will never forget! Please find some time to rest Rock Star . . . Love JuneBug

    1. We all do, JuneBug, and yes it was that very day. Action-packed for sure! Thank you again for your beautiful souffle and perfect Chess Pie! xox Frances

  2. That is the best story! Wow, maybe it will make all os us stop and say hello to those less fortunate. Yesterday I engaged a homeless woman who strolls in our neighborhood often. I asked her if she needed water. She said that would be wonderful. Long story short, 3 trips up and down my not too short driveway, she left with a coke, more water, some fresh cut veggies and 4 protein bars and said, “Please pray for me Duvall (she remembered my name), I need it.” I said I would. She said, “I believe you.” It broke my heart.

  3. I loved your story! Sometimes out of the depth of despair, God actually does speak and you feel so very blessed. As I look back over this past year (the worst of my life) I can see how many “God moments” I have had and how God has blessed me every day. As I have learned to “trust” God to walk with me, my life has changed and instead of dreading each day, I now look forward to what God has in store for me. “This is the day that the Lord has made — let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Thank you, Frances, for your wonderful story. May you experience many more just like the one you described.

    1. And thank you for your story, Marilyn, and for the grace in it. How many times have we all read and heard to trust, to let go and let God, etc. (Something about bumper-sticker evangelism annoys me 😉 But it isn’t until we take it on board and live it that it is life-changing, and life changing it is, and never too late. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, indeed. Much love, Frances

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Frances. I just recently went through a similar betrayal. Your story was a perfectly timed reminder of what is important.

  5. Frances.
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. A close family member experienced a real breach of trust yesterday. I literally could feel his pain, exhaustion, disillusionment over the phone. Now I wake up to see your beautiful story. I have already forwarded it to him. It is a gorgeous new day in North Carolina…. thank you and the good Lord for the reminder!!

    1. Oh dear Tiffany, I am so sorry, but so glad you are heartened and hope he will be, too. On a lighter note, met a darlin’ friend of yours in Washington. Of course cannot remember her name… Thank you for writing dear cousin, xox Frances

  6. Dear FrancEs! 🙂
    Loved this! And, I feel your pain about losing that connection/friendship with a long-time buddy. I try to pray before I enter a store, etc., “God, open my eyes to those around me. Thank YOU for divine appointments.” YOURS with William opened my eyes further. Can’t wait to get to Viand someday. Bless you! xoxo

  7. What wonderful words! Just goes to show that many times the “small” things are truly the “big” things. A reminder that when we feel we can do nothing to help, the “big” things, that we should do what we can. The smallest of gestures can make just the right impact.

    And yes….I understand completely the satisfaction of a fountain Diet Coke….my vice!

  8. A great life lesson !! It is amazing what a gift … No matter the size will do for the giver and receiver ! Xo Becky

  9. When one door closes, another, usually better for us, opens. God has a plan for each one of us and if we stand out of His way, He will reveal it to us. Your simple, sweet and heartfelt story is a wonderful reminder. What a lovely person you are ! Sending you love from Boston !

    1. So true, Ruth, hard as it may be to see sometimes. As a wise friend said to me recently, sometimes when we’re waiting for that other door to open, we have to stand in the vestibule for a while. Sending love back to you! FS

  10. Wow! Thank you for that Frances. It’s as if he was honorary angel at that moment charged with delivering a message that your trust is a sacred gift cultivated by you that nothing nor anyone should be allowed to destroy, even a bitter heartfelt betrayal. It’s so moving to receive guidance for our thinking in such a serendipitous way. And the message from Randall from a few weeks ago, you just kept walking!! Thank you.

  11. Mama Ruth taught you and Duvall well. Must be looking down and being proud.
    What a lovely begin the day with thoughts and kindnesses.
    xo, Lynn

  12. While I am sorry for your betrayal and loss, I am VERY happy that you see how gestures, however small, can impact our lives. I often pay for the meals of strangers that I see something in just because it feels good. It could be an older person eating alone in a restaurant or someone that just looks down. The owner of a new Philly cheesesteak place here in town “gets it” and just lets me go out with no conversation between me and the person or persons I’m treating. Believe me, I get much more out of it than they do from a simple sandwich…turns out one of the couples I did it for was out of money and wanted something to eat. I didn’t know it at that time but slipped the owner the cash to cover something for them. He told me about it later. It just feels good to do for others and it does NOT have to be some grand gesture either. You are a sweet, delightful and dare I say it, beautiful young woman and I’m proud to know you.

    1. Wow Jet, your random acts of kindness are nothing short of miraculous themselves. Blessings to you. I’m proud to know you, too. Since 6th grade! 😉 Frances

  13. Hi, my beautiful friend~ So, you were running on empty last Monday. I am so very sorry. You know of blessings and beauty and strength, you have them all. But, you were depleted by a loss, and OUR wonderful God, decided to fill you up, in such an unexpected way. HE wanted to console you with HIS grace and mercy,….William.
    Thank you for sharing~xoxo C

  14. You are wonderful, Frances. Thank you for the tale of the inspirational act of kindness and goodness. xoxoxoxoxox Happy

  15. Dear Frances, you may remember me in a far away corner – I worked for Mr. JB many years ago, alongside emilylenichsaltoftheearth. Many, many, many fond memories. My prayers every morning include ~ Lord, lead me to the ones who need me, and to the ones I need. It works. Be necessary to someone.

  16. We learn that as we give, we receive tenfold.. Love your story, Frances dear.
    But how painful it must be to have been betrayed. I am so sorry to hear your hurt. But I am grateful for your honesty and that you share your vulnerability with us.
    Clearly, you know God ‘s hand in it all. That really was the “winning ticket “…..your burden was made light.
    You are a special one. Love, Renée

  17. Yours,is a wonderful story.I remember one very lonely rainy and sad day in NY for me,I went in that coffee shop,wish I had seen William.what a dear thing you did for each other.
    I pass it when I am in NY and it makes me sad remembering and so I have never gone back.Now maybe I will.I have never heard anyone mention that coffee shop except you.
    Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta.Love your Bee story and you xoxo MW

  18. France’s, I am so sorry for your hurt. I know that feeling very well. Thank you for sharing your ‘William’ story with all of us. God has really amazing ways of brightening the most dark and dreary day! We all love you and wish the very best for you!
    xo, Lissy ?

  19. Betrayal always hurts, I am sorry you had to go through that. Angels are always around us, even when we do not see them; they tend to show up when and where we least expect them. What a lovely gesture from William, he sounds like a true gentleman. Isn’t it lovely to find someone like that? It restores our faith in humanity. And thank you for acknowledging William, so many people look straight through those like him, instead of thinking, there but for the grace of God go I. Hope you are feeling better and have a way better Monday this week!

  20. Frances,

    Thank you for sharing your bittersweet tale of loss and gain. God often works in small and quiet ways, and it’s soothing when someone like William helps restore faith in humanity.

    I’ve recently read two sweet and uplifting books that are sure to make you smile:
    ‘Love Does’ by Bob Goff
    ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch (with the actual lecture posted online).

    Take care of yourself,
    Donna from Marietta

  21. Thank you thank you thank you. So needed to read your story this morning! Am feeling less than due to a mini health crisis that remains frustratingly unsolved. This exchange of humanity will help me soldier on today. I sound so maudlin. SO not me. As Oympia said in Moonstruck–snap out of it! Yes ma’am, there is lots out there to be grateful for. Here is to moving on and sharing our journey. TY Frances.

  22. I can picture that exact corner! Never thought about a fountain drink there, but will next trip! So sorry for what you’ve been through, but thankful William made things better! You were there for each other….so sweet. Brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing! xoxo

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