What do you do, when you meet someone and walk away from the conversation and a little voice inside says, ‘we need to help her’?
You listen, is what you do.
And you talk about it with someone who is willing to listen to you.
Listen to you share your feeling of being moved by another human being and their misfortune, difficulty, hardship, heartbreak.
You risk feeling vulnerable about caring so much.
You push past the feelings of uncertainty.
And, you listen to those who encourage you to not lose the moment, to not let it pass.
And then, you do something about it. Get busy. Make something happen.
That’s what happened to me two weeks ago, and it’s one of those things that will leave an imprint on me forever. One of those moments.
Two weeks ago, I was in my neighborhood grocery store and true to form, (I talk to just about anyone) I struck up a conversation with the gal at the check-out. I was in a great mood, it was a Friday night and I had company coming for the weekend. I was there to buy fun food for snacking. Engaging with the woman at the cash register, we slipped easily into conversation about feeling tired, end of the day, end of the week, end of her shift. Recognizing her exhaustion, I asked if she had little ones at home to attend to when the work day came to a close at ten pm later that night. She responded that no, she does not but that she has one on the way, as she gently patted her rounded belly that I had not noticed before. We moved easily into the language between two women who share the wondrous experience of motherhood – no matter that she’s at the wee stages and I am on the cusp of having a decade of motherhood behind me. We are the same, bonded, in that moment. I recognize her fatigue.
I ask questions, and the story spills out of her, bit by bit. She’s on her own in this maze of motherhood she has only just entered. I gingerly ask about support from the baby’s father; not so much. I ask about family support; not so much. I ask about friends, girl friends, someone? She confides that yes, there are a couple of friends on hand, there for her. And that she’s going to have to move. And that she can’t continue with this job, it’s just too physical. Underneath the utterly delightful smile and despite it all, such happy eyes, I can see her exhaustion. She’s on her feet nine hours a day for her job. I can sense in her the looming questions of ‘how is all of this supposed to work’?. Something inside me pinged and panged. I wanted, I needed, to know, that she’s going to be ok. It was just way too easy to insert myself into that place of alone-ness. And only later did I realize that It scared the hell out of me.
I left the store, looking back at her and smiling and said, straight to her, “I will be thinking about you.”
I just had no idea how much.
I walked home in the warm fall evening and that little voice said to me, ‘We need to help her” and I had the idea of just putting it out there on Facebook. See what happens. Then something in me started to second guess myself. And then, I was swept up in the busy-ness of the weekend, but though the voice inside was nearly drowned out with other activities and conversations, it kept whispering to me. I shared this experience with my guest and in a quiet, simple comment the message to not let this pass was conveyed. I heard him.
And I didn’t. Let it pass. I wish I didn’t have to say that for some reason I still hesitated, but I do. I hesitated. Why? Perhaps that is for another day, because this story is much larger than that. I pushed beyond and posted a note on my Facebook wall sharing this encounter, with a gentle invitation to my friends if they also felt compelled.
What happened next still gets me. Within hours, more than a dozen of friends from around the country responded. PayPal started hopping, requests for my mailing address started and i was again moved, as I watched this take shape before my very eyes. I hesitated? How could I have second guessed this goodness?
By week’s end, nearly twenty of my trusted friends – who in turn trusted me, trusted my instincts – came forward so readily, with amounts ranging from $10 to $100 each. In the end, our pennies all put together really added up. I was moved at each turn in this process. Amazed by the momentum. Standing back in awe that others saw what I saw. Graced by the opportunity be part of something far larger than me. And that my kiddo could witness this greatness unfold over the course of just a couple of days.
I took Kiddo with me and we went to see her. As she walked out from the back of the store, we were met by those same happy eyes and a beautiful smile. She recognized me but had no idea what was coming. I simply asked her if she remembered that I had said that I would be thinking of her. She nodded, a bit perplexed. I handed her two envelopes; one a card with a message from me and the list of first names (and their city) of everyone who jumped on board with me; and a Target gift card for $500. Yes, $500. That will buy a lot of diapers. Or binkies. Or toys. Or whatever she needs. Wow.
The hugs. The smile. The gratitude. The tears.
Words like miracle. Angels. Gift. Grace.
I was adamant that this was not about me but she insisted on getting my phone number; saying she wants to keep in touch with me and the next day I received the most beautiful, moving, transparent and articulate voice message. It is still on my phone. I am certain that this woman, and her baby [oh, it’s a boy!] will somehow be part of our lives for a long time.
How could I have hesitated?
What do you do when a little voice inside says, ‘we should help her?”
You listen, is what you do.