May 2, 2013

Heart Speaks

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.


Sarah said...

Sometimes all that matters is a friendly smile.. And I am sure you gave your customer that smile

Judy said...

Amy, you did exactly the right thing ad I bet you made day.. Maybe, subconsciously, that is why I always talk to others in line at the grocery store. You just never know who needs you.

Bonnie K said...

Good for you. I'm glad you were there for her. As for the person that hinted you weren't dynamic enough. That shows how little she knows about kids. I have worked with teenagers for 18 years and what they need most is somebody who will listen. Thank you for making someone's day a bit better. We need more of you out there in this big wide world.

Melissa Bo said...

Im glad you were there for her. =)
I enjoyed reading your post, its very inspirational.

Have a wonderful week!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you. This was something I needed to read.

Sometimes I think people do not understand the impact that their words can have, however kindly or nonchalantly said. As women especially it is easy for us to put ourselves down or compare ourselves to other - not funny enough, not dynamic enough, not creative enough, not _________ enough. What we forget is that we were called to be angels of mercy to our fellow men, and God grants us each individual talents in order to do so. We each struggle in our own way, but He grants us the opportunity to forget ourselves in service to others so that our weaknesses may become strengths.

Thanks again for this touching story!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. Once you got over the awkward realization that you were at work and couldn't really "talk" at length, which I'm sure the woman realized, you allowed her to talk while you listened with your heart. You know, we all need that. We need to be needed, we need to matter. You gave that to her. And you might never know the impact you had on her in that moment of time. She might have been making some major decisions in her life, dependent on whether or not she could find a kind person; you were that kind person to her. Again, thank you for sharing; being open to listen (to kids, friends, family members, and strangers) is the greatest gift we can give anyone.

Eileen said...

Love your post. It's so poignant in so many ways and know i can relate. Wonder how many times i've been too busy to notice someone's need like you did...yay for you! Or thoughtless like your experience with the man...busy and just not thinking how my words might impact someone for a long time. lots to think about. Thanks for sharing and have a great day

renee anderson said...

God put you in the right place at the right time. Thank you for being a blessing to her! I know for me sometimes a smile from a stranger can make my day. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. You've reminded me not to be so busy as to miss the humanity in every encounter. And just look what this woman has done for you and all the rest of us! Just one conversation, seemingly innocuous, has touched so many lives. Love.

Brenda C said...

Kindness always matters. I've moved to a new community where I was completely unknown. People who are kind and take time to smile and say something make all the difference on the homesick days. Good for you for being one of those someones!

Bonnie K has it right, teenagers need someone who will listen and care about them. So toss out that thoughtless comment, it's not worth keeping.

on being kathy said...

Amy, I know it's so many months after your post, but I had to comment. I had an encounter with a woman in the parking lot of a grocery store just days before know, the busiest time known to mankind. We're rushing and racing around, and don't seem to have the time to stop and experience a seemingly unimportant moment. This woman thanked me for returning my cart to the store instead of just leaving it by my car (you never know who's watching you). It gave her an opening to approach me and one thing led to another and I found out about her mother, brother, ungrateful sister, stress of holidays...etc. She obviously had a lot going on in her heart. As I stood there with one leg in the car door (probably looking like I was trying to escape) I heard a voice say "step out of the car, close the door and give her your full attention". So I did. We chatted a few more moments, ended up hugging, and said goodbye. That encounter, seemingly unimportant, may have really made her day. She may have really needed just to be heard. But it's funny that such an innocent encounter has stuck with me with such power. I re-read your post and one sentence really struck me.."I know the whole experience made a difference in me". Maybe the experience you had was for you and not for her. Maybe the experience I had was for me and not for her. How many times in my life have I wished the person I was talking to would stop interrupting? I just want to be heard. I have something to say, please be quiet. I think I gave her what I wanted. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger than it is someone close to you. I don't know why that is, but it is. Thank you for your post and thank you for "listening".