Yesterday I had an experience that will not leave my mind or my heart. To sum it up, let me share with you my post on my personal Facebook wall...
"Today at work I had a lady hang out in the yarn department for about an hour. At first I greeted her, then a little while later I asked her if I could help her find something, and then finally she came up to me and wanted to chat. Granted I was working so it wasn't exactly chit-chat time but when she finally left my heart hurt a little. I realized the woman was lonely. I'm so glad she left with a smile but I keep thinking about her. How sad that she had to go into a retail store to find a friend." - FB post May 1, 2013
This woman was put together nicely, hair combed and cute clothes. When you looked at her she was your everyday woman. Her head did not hang down. She was not physically showing any signs of sorrow. She didn't act needy, nor did she appear depressed.
She could have been you.
She could have been me.
I don't know much about her life. I didn't get her name. I don't know her story but I know that when I was talking to her my heart knew she needed our conversation. It knew. I felt it so strongly that I couldn't ignore it. She needed somebody to connect with. I don't know if I made a difference by taking the time to chat but I hope I did.
The interesting thing about it all is how this experience impacted me. How many times I have passed by people that are just like her. The ones that need a friend but it doesn't show on the outside. The ones that maybe I make a passing judgement on; "they've got it together, they don't need me." How many hearts are out there that need somebody? How many people just need a friendly conversation? How many woman have to go to a retail store to find a friend? How many times have I let my own insecurities get in the way of being present enough to recognize a heavy heart that is hidden behind a put-together exterior?
Speaking of my own insecurities, a few years ago I was serving in a position at my church where I helped plan and execute a large youth event. I was one of the leaders in charge and it was a new role for me. After all the planning was done and it was time for the event I wasn't exactly sure what my role would be during the conference. Was I to interact with the youth? Was I behind the scenes, kitchen duty? Was I to do both? So I asked. The response I got from my superior, while I know it was said without malice, hurt.
I was told, "we want the dynamic people to be with the youth so Sister so and so ..." He went on to explain that the other female leader was the one that they wanted to be interacting with the kids. I was, indeed, without it being said, just the kitchen help. It didn't matter that for months I had planned and researched and studied and worked. It didn't matter that everything else I had done up to that point showed my talents and dedication. None of it mattered because all I knew from then on was that I was not dynamic enough. Which meant, in some way to me, that I was also not of equal worth to the other leaders.
Still to this day I hang onto those words. Any time I have a hardship in life or have to put myself out there in social situations, or if I have to speak up about something, I hear in my head "your not dynamic enough, why try? Why bother?"
It's a false statement but don't we all do that? Don't we all hang onto the negative and then we let those negative statements restrict us from all the good that we can do?
Yesterday, while I was interacting with this woman, I didn't need to be dynamic. I just needed to be present. I didn't have to be fun, I just had to be genuine. I didn't have to entertain, I just had to listen. I didn't have to be charming, I just had to care.
At that point in time everything I kept telling myself that I'm "not" didn't matter as much as what I actually was. I'm grateful that I had that moment of clarity.
I'm sure I didn't make a grand difference in this woman's life but maybe, just maybe, because I was willing to open myself up enough to feel her heart, maybe she didn't feel so alone when she left. Maybe she left feeling like she met a friend in a retail store and maybe that made her day better even if it was just for a moment. I know the whole experience made a difference in me.
I always say that kindness matters. I hope I was kind enough that it mattered to her. I also hope that I will remember that there are others just like her that are out there. I'm sure I cross paths with people daily that just need a boost, a smile, a positive conversation or a heart that cares. I hope I always remember, and then act on that.
I hope we all do.