I was told this story many years ago when I was having tough times. I thought I would share it with you, in case any of you are having tough times and are in need of comfort.
An old angel was sent down to Earth in the company of a young angel. He was to show him the world, it's kindnesses and it's cruelties, and to that end the two of them went disguised as men, bare foot, with no money and no food.
On the first day they walked until dusk and as night approached looked for a place to find shelter. They saw a grand house on the side of the road and crossed over to it, knocked on the door and asked for a meal and a place to sleep. The owners observed the tatty robes, the dirty feet, the unkempt appearances, and put the two angels in the garage on the cold hard floor, giving them only leftovers for sustenance. In the morning after an uncomfortable nights' sleep the young angel woke to see the old angel repairing a hole in the garage wall. Not long after the owners appeared and roughly told the angels to be on their way.
As they were walking down the road the young angel asked the old angel: "why did you mend the hole in wall? Those people showed us no kindness, why would you want to help them?"
The old angel merely smiled. "All is not always what it seems" he said.
The day was hot and there was little shelter along the way. By evening the angels were tired, thirsty, footsore and hungry. As night fell they found themselves out in deep countryside where there were few houses. The young angel despaired of finding anywhere to sleep and eat. Finally, they came to a tumbledown shack. They knocked and the door was opened by an old man, so aged his back was bent and his hair and beard long. The angels explained their need for food and shelter and the old man welcomed them in. He apologised that he and his wife had very little in the way of food, but they insisted the angels shared their evening meal and then, when bedtime came, gave them their bed to sleep in while the old couple slept on rags on the floor.
In the morning the young angel was woken by the sound of weeping. It was the old woman, crying inconsolably in the arms of her husband. Their only cow had died in the night, the old man explained. and they didn't know what they would do for food.
"We must do something," the young angel urged the old angel, who was packing his bag and preparing to leave. "We cannot leave them like this!" But the old angel merely said "it is time to go. You must remember: all is not always what it seems."
The young angel did not understand this and was angered by it. The old man gave them a parcel of bread and cheese for their lunch, and they left the shack and walked away with the sound of the old woman's sobbing loud in their ears.
At midday the two angels stopped to unwrap the meal the old couple had given them.
"Will you explain it to me now?" the young angel said, "for I do not understand. At the first house, the people were cruel and selfish. Although they had great wealth they would not share it with us, and yet you mended their wall. At the second house the people had nothing but they shared everything with us, and you allowed their cow to die."
The old Angel looked at the young angel. "All is not always what it seems," he said. "In the first house, the couple stored all their gold in that hole in the wall. In the second house, the angel of death came for the old woman in the night, and I persuaded him to take the cow instead."