Do you believe in miracles & magic? Do you believe that without any doing of your own, an opportunity can be put in your path, a promotion can come your way unexpectedly, or a simple, kind gesture from a stranger can completely transform your day?
I believe in miracles, because I have seen they happen to me frequently throughout these last 5 years of loss & hardship.
Lighting our candle for her best friend this year. She passed away unexpectedly at age 5, when my daughter was a precocious 3 & 1/2. Each year brings new waves of grief for us both in losing this beautiful child.
I was having a particularly rough day last week. Lots of emotions have been hitting on every front, one of which was the anniversary of my daughter’s best friend’s death. After several days of holding my 6-year-old while she cried, seeing her understand death at a new level now, I was feeling emotionally exhausted. All the memories of the worst conversation of my life, telling her the news, hugging her best friend’s Mom at the service (meeting her for the first time at her daughter’s funeral), and years of her grievous outbursts of pain…all came flooding back.
I went to the grocery store with a tear-stained face, trying to hide my pain from the world.
Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to hide like that, because nowadays, we rarely take time to acknowledge strangers. Few people stop to say hello as you pass them searching for peanut butter in the baking section. We are all guilty of it, especially on tough days, like the one I was having.
So, I was walking through Safeway,intentionally not looking up and acknowledging others. I didn’t want anyone to see me in my rawness and realness. And, I was in so much pain, I felt like people at Safeway certainly couldn’t understand what I was going through.
But, on this night that I took my tear-soaked sleeves and raw, naked me to Safeway, as I passed the back door to the stock room, an employee came out, and walked up along side me. He could have ignored me. Especially since I didn’t look at him, because I was hurting so much. But, he didn’t.
Even as I tried to hide my face pain, he reached out to me with his words and his heart, and said, “How are you tonight, mam?”
“Fine. I’m fine. Thank you,” I replied curtly, as if to say, “Back off buddy, woman in pain over here.”
I thought he’d certainly leave me alone after that.
But instead, he looked at me again, and softly, with genuine concern in his voice, said, “Can I help you find anything tonight, mam?”
“I’m ok,” I replied, “But…thank you so much!” I finished, with a smile beginning to streak on my face.
Do you know…can you believe…that those words, in an instant, made me snap out of my pain-filled tortoise shell, poke my head out, and sigh a breath of relief?
I felt seen. Heard. Understood. Drawn out of my shell.
I held my head a little higher as I picked my produce and then headed to check out. When I got to checkout, there was only one lane open and 6 slow elders ahead of me. I groaned internally, and resigned to try to accept that as much as I wanted to avoid human interaction, I may be forced to wait it out a little longer.
Just then, I felt someone grab me by the arm from behind. It felt like a friend, lovingly taking hold of me, to lead me to safety.
I turned around, and it was Dana. The employee/man/sweet soul who had spoken to me at the back of the store before. “Come on over here, I’ll open a lane for you.”
Did he know how much pain I was in? How much it took for me to be in the world that night when I was hurting so much inside? How gut-wrenching it was to hold my daughter all week, knowing there was nothing I could do to take away her pain?
And in that instant, he snapped out of his tortoise shell, looked up, and a smile came over his face. “Oh, yeah…you’re welcome!”
When he finished ringing up my items, I stopped, looked right into his eyes, and let him see my tear-stained face, “You know,” I said. “I was having a really rough day today, and you were nice to me, and that really meant a lot to me. You lifted my spirits.”
He was physically taken aback and stuttered as he replied, “Whha…wheee…well, thank you.”
Then, he went on…
“You know what, I was having a really rough day today, too, and the fact that you just stopped to tell me that – that I brightened your day a little? That brightens mine.”
He handed me the receipt and smiled.
“Well, you really did make a difference for me, more than you know.”
“Well, thank you,” he finished,” You made a big difference for me as well.”
His whole demeanor had changed. And so had mine. We both walked into that Safeway that night in pain, fighting our own battles. But, we both walked away, smiling, because of the kindness of a stranger.
Who knows what his battle was. Maybe he had a fight with his wife. Maybe someone in his life died. Or, maybe he was just having a bad day at work.
Didn’t matter. He knew pain. So did I. And we were joined in acknowledging that in each other through a magical little thing called…empathy.
It may not be exactly what Safeway trains their employees to do. But, it is certainly what this man did for me. Now, that’s going the extra mile.
Or, better yet, BE the miracle in someone else’s life. Pick up the phone, call a friend you know is struggling, give a stranger at the gas station a couple extra bucks for gas, take an elder to a movie. Stop. Look up. Smile. Say hello. Say, “How are you doing?”
You may be the difference in someone’s life today. You may be a band-aid to an open wound, a voice to a forgotten soul, a light to the depths of another’s darkness. You have that power. Use it wisely, today. And don’t ever forget what a simple act of EMPATHY can do.
There’s a Random Act of Kindness Movement that has spread for years. My mission? I like to call it The Empathy Project. Oftentimes, it takes no more than a smile and a hello to spread empathy – to let someone know they’ve been seen & heard.
Will you join my mission & spread some empathy today?
Like & share this post to spread The Empathy Project’s mission and comment below to tell us how you’ve made a difference in someone’s life by spreading empathy today. ___________
Update 2-20-14: This post has gone VIRAL! Thank you to all of you for coming to visit. I’m so grateful this story has touched you. Please click on “Follow Blog” if you’d like to hear about my journey of triumph in tragedy. In 4 years 20 people have died in my life, I lost my job, my home & much more, but I’m a comeback kid & now I’m teaching what I’ve learned – how to find peace in pain, how to overcome tragedy & create the life of your dreams no matter what you’ve been through. I hope to inspire you. More about me here. ❤