Monday, October 14, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Over the last few weeks, I have been the recipient of random acts of caring from perfect strangers.  By coincidence or divine intervention, these individuals who do not know me have been there to offer comfort in moments of heartache.

Maybe in those moments God knew I needed a gentle touch to remind me that He is present in my life and even though I don't understand why things are the way they are, He has a plan that is greater than I can imagine.

It started a few Sundays ago, I was falling asleep to one of my stations on iHeart radio when the song "Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail)" came on.  I couldn't stop the tears streaming down my face that night nor can I stop them when I hear the song.   Subsequent to that night, we started a sermon series at church...Greater Than.  God is Greater Than My ________.  You can fill in the blank.  "Oceans" has been something of a theme song for this series, so I have heard it a few times over the last few weeks.

I was standing during the worship portion of service when the band played a  song, the name escapes me, which started tears sliding down my face.  I have the ability to cry silently in church, so I quietly brushed aside the tears while talking to God in my head.  The song ends and I'm a sniffling mess when I hear the first bars of Oceans, the haunting violin.  I take a deep breath and try to remember to exhale.  

And the tears come, a flood trying to sweep me fast I cannot wipe them away.  I let them fall.  That's when I felt two hands rest on my shoulders with a gentle tug backwards...a complete stranger whispering, "do you want to go sit in the cafe and talk.  You can tell me what's wrong. Let's get a coffee."  She held me there for the duration of the song letting me cry and offering the gift of her heart and understanding.  When we finally sat down, I thanked her and said there really wasn't anything to talk about.

Don't get me wrong, I could talk, but does it really matter to a stranger that my heart has been wounded, my dog was sick, I'm on the verge of losing my job, I'm stressed out. It's been a crappy year and I know others have it worse, but this is my hell that I'm living.  Turns out she is a Stephen's Minister.  This is what they are trained to do, to listen to those who are hurting and need an ear to bend and a hand to hold.  Being an Stephen's Minister is something I have thought about for year, and here was a one offering me a sympathetic moment.

There was also a lady who accompanied her to church, an older woman with a heart just as sweet.  She wrote me a kind note and spoke with me after service.  It did my heart good that day, just to feel God, through those women, wrap me up in His arms.

Flash forward a couple of weeks.  I was having dinner with my bestie at a local Chili's.  It was literally 24 hours since I had to put my sweet Finnegan to sleep after a rough 16 days.  My heart still aching and I was avoiding home and Mollie and the unbearable silence.

We get seated and our waiter, Joshuah, arrived.  The first thought I have is, "Really Lord, you have to seat me in a section with a waiter who reminds me of someone who has crushed me?"  Yes, that was literally my first thought.  He was as sweet as he could be.  I like engaging people and not everyone can be a successfully engaging waiter/waitress, but Joshuah was.  He answered our questions, took our orders and moved off to get our drinks.

His return with the libations was accompanied with a British accent, which made me giggle as it was so preposterous.  As he dropped off the drinks, I said, "oh we are British now" and a humorous conversation of sorts was started.  I asked him if he could do Australian and he broke off a bit of that before strolling off to take care of his other tables.  We had witty repartee all evening with him even though each time I saw him my heart gave hurtful thump.

The evening was ending when he brought our tickets.  After he dropped them, I was talking about my boy and started crying again.  I couldn't help it, and still can't because I miss that annoying little dog.  Tears streaming down my face, when Joshuah came by to pick up the checks.  It took him half a heartbeat to look at me, asking if I was okay.  When I shook my head no, he said, "do you mind if I give you a hug?"  I said no and before I could say another word, I was wrapped up in a tight hug from a stranger.  My face buried in his polo shirt, with the smell of man and food assailing my senses.

He said, "I know I don't know you or what's wrong and you don't have to share if you don't want to..."  and hugged me a little tighter.  I told him that I had to put my boy to sleep the night before.  He immediately responded that he'd been through the same thing last week with his best friend.  I broke the hug and shortly after that he walked off, returning with a napkin.  Handing it to me, he said, "I don't know you but I love you."

Here is this guy who doesn't know me other than I'm his customer and he's offered a healing hug and kindness in a moment that I needed it.  Yes, there was some angst on my part due to his resemblance to someone, but in that moment, it didn't matter.  There, in the middle of a Saturday evening meal rush, there was a gentle soul offering a sweetly tender gesture to a complete stranger.

My heart still hurts, my job is still in jeopardy and my sweet boy is gone.  But in two very poignant moments, God used strangers to wrap me in His arms and for that I am grateful.  It reminds me that He is there when the oceans overwhelm and my feel fail.

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