I popped into the local Dollar Store for cat food. That was it. All I needed. Yet, I came out with so much more….
As my young son and I walked up and down the familiar aisles, wondering why the animal food was in such short supply, we both heard a bizarre wheezing, coughing sound toward the front of the store.
The closer we got to the entrance, we saw a lady, standing closely by one store clerk, who was crying profusely.
We are talking ugly crying. Barely breathing.
The only other two clerks in the store rushed toward the woman to see if it was a medical emergency. It was an emergency, but one of the mind, heart, and emotions, affecting every single cell in this woman’s frail and weary body.
I really wanted to bypass the whole scene, but we had everything we needed.
My first concern was for my son, thinking we may be in danger should this woman’s husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, or whomever had her so upset, came looking for her.
I apologized to everyone trying to comfort her and made it apparent that we were ready to check out.
The lone female cashier apologized all over herself.
I said, “I am very concerned for that lady, do you know her? Can I call someone to help her?”
The cashier leaned in closer to me and said, “There is nothing we can do. She comes in nearly every day. She has dealt with some very intense trauma from an ex-husband and has severe PTSD [Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder] because of it. I know this, because I deal with the same issues from my stepfather, and you cannot always control when and how it comes out.”
That was a bit more than I bargained for, when all I really needed was….cat food.
Yet, my heart went out to the cashier who had so selflessly befriended this woman and obviously knows how to simply listen, hug, comfort, and be there.
I said, “Thank goodness she has a friend like you, who understands.” And then we left.
At a loss for words, I said to my son: “There are a lot of people in this world dealing with some very real and heartbreaking trauma. It is so sad. I wish I could do more.”
Then it occurred to me, it may not seem like much, but we could pray.
So, pray we did.
There in the sunlit warmth of our car, in a busy parking lot in the middle of town on a weekday afternoon, we prayed for the sad woman to find comfort, help, and healing.
Should I have done more? Possibly.
Was it any of my business? Probably not.
Yet, my church’s minister preached a sermon merely two weeks ago, still fresh in my mind, about the intersections of life.
How God often places us, or others, on very directed paths for a reason.
I did nothing to help this hurting stranger today. But her friend did.
She stood with her in the pain. She ushered her to a private location so she could find a bit of solace to overcome the sheer panic attack that had besieged her. She did not turn away, ignore, or ask her to leave. She did exactly what Christians are instructed to do.
Stay. Pray. And not walk away (I don’t know that she prayed, but she seemed like someone who would have prayed).
I felt blessed to witness this very strange, not-everyday account of kindness.
While it saddens me to no end, the cruelty and violence some humans bestow on others, seeing a stranger-turned-friend step up and allow her painful past to assist her in comforting and loving another was a breathtaking scene.
We all find ourselves in these fateful situations.
Life is hard. People are hurting. With no place to turn.
We do not have to reach deep and bring out a well-rehearsed sermon to the tearful masses of the world.
All we really have to do is care.
I witnessed this today and was blessed because of it.
I will continue to pray for the crying stranger in the store, that she would find peace, and healing.
That she recognizes the caring heart of the cashier that did not turn away. That stood beside her, in a public place, and simply helped shoulder a burden too big for one to bear alone.
The day after Valentine’s Day, the infamous ‘Love Holiday,’ I was in search of cat food and possibly half-priced Valentine’s candy.
I walked away with something even sweeter.
A firsthand view of the kindness of one broken-hearted stranger to another.
A scene of pure love and devotion that had Christ’s name written all over it.
A fateful intersection in which I was divinely able to bear witness.