One afternoon, while in town, I recognized someone I knew – she was standing alone at a crossroads in a heavily crowded area. Traffic (both cars and humans) whirled about her, while she remained still, ‘decked-out’ in a beautiful outfit – hairdo and all.
I’d only just arrived in the area, and had some errands to run, one of which included joining a long “congaline” in a bank, so I smoothly swerved a little closer to her on the wide sidewalk, intending to smile, wave, say “hiii” and continue on tackling the day’s “to-do” list. But there was something in her eyes – beyond the huge dark shades balancing on her nose…it was…sorrow.
We’ve known each other a long time, though not very well at all, but that wasn’t the point. I slowed my walk, offered a smile and looked her straight in the eyes that were hiding behind those glasses. She practically gasped, took of the shades to reveal tear-stained eyes, and said she was so glad to see me. She was struggling with a recent situation of heartbreaking betrayal…and had tried taking her own life that same morning. She was still wrestling with the thought, and exhausted from the conversations in her mind that told her she was not worthy of love and loyalty.
His love and loyalty are forever gifted to all.
Now, first let me say here, that this isn’t the first conversation like this I’ve had. At various points on my walk, women and children have ‘randomly’ reached out when at the edge of giving up on life, and I’m certain it’s not because I’m oh-so-cool-and-understanding, but more because they know they can confide with someone who faced the same temptation to give up, at 16 years old.
…without any prompting, she shared this sad snippet of her story while I prayed for ears that listened with compassion, and words that spoke hope and life. I asked if she believes, and she said yes – someone had recommended she read a particular verse of comfort in Scripture, but she couldn’t slow down her mind to take the time to lean on the Lord through His Word. So, I pulled out my traveling bible and read it to her right there on the corner at the crossroad. At first she looked around nervously at the passing pedestrians and column of cars traveling up, down, and across the street…then she slowed down, and listened.
Time passed while standing on that sidewalk, and her sadness slowly and visibly made way for strength. We said our friendly goodbyes, and shared reminders that we’re not alone on our walk, and are purposely positioned to love, encourage, motivate, mourn and celebrate with one another.
A few days later, we saw each other in another part of town. She was with a relative, and gave a distant wave with a pleasant smile. Traces of pain were on her face, but it was clear, joy was still alive in her heart.
It reminds me that we can beautify our appearance, and polish what’s on the outside so few recognize the pain and seasonal struggles we sometimes wrestle with inside, but when we reach out…when we recognize…when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to those who care for us especially at a time when it’s needed most…to both give and receive words of hope, life-shaping conversations can happen. I think of how many times sister-friends have carved pockets of time to share wisdom, a smile, and message of encouragement with me on my walk; it’s a beautiful thing when we make time just to be there for someone.
When I saw her the second time, there were no looks of pity…only a shared smile that spoke of an unexpected moment in a busy town, standing at a crossroad.