This very long and emotional week is ending with me still playing catch up, but the bottom line is that I am catching up, slowly, but surely. Yesterday, my day began with me being able to something for someone who did as much for me as I hope that I did for her, as it reminded me that everyone has a story that needs and deserves to be heard. I am forever grateful and humbled that this person shared their darkest moment with me and that I was able to be a source of light when one was needed the most.
After being out of the office for two days at a conference, I looked forward to work more than usual yesterday morning. As I drove downtown, the sun was out, my windows were down, the music was up, and my heart heavy with grief felt a bit lighter. As I eased my car into the spot in front of the free health clinic, which is two doors down from the day shelter for homeless men where I work, I saw some new and familiar faces waiting outside on the sidewalk. One unfamiliar face is now one that I will never forget.
When I got out of the car, I greeted those nearby, and a small woman sitting on the curb called out to me, “Good morning! What’s your name?” I walked over to her, and I introduced myself and shook her hand. When I inquired as to how she was doing today, she began to cry and explained that she was waiting to talk with the social worker at the clinic. As we continued to chat, I learned that she was homeless and dealing with a mental illness, and I also learned that she had been raped a few days earlier and blamed herself to the point that she had thought of killing herself. As she told me her story through increasing sobs, I listened and held her hand, and then, I ended up hugging her and rocking her the same way I do when one of my daughters gets hurt. She was not my daughter, but she was somebody’s daughter.
As I held her, I shared with her that while I never had been through the horrific experience that she described to me, that I had been though difficult times that caused me to consider ending my own life. As soon as I said that, she pulled back a bit, looked at me with wide eyes, and said, “Really? But you’re so nice and beautiful, and I love you.” Her heartfelt words warmed my own heart, and I replied, “Yes; I really have felt that way, but I can honestly say that no matter how bad things were, I never have regretted my decision to live. You are sweet and beautiful, and I love you right back.” She cried a little more, and two gentleman who are guests at the day shelter appeared with coffee and doughnuts and gingerly handed them to her, and one of them said in a hushed voice to me, “She’s in a real bad way, Miss Kristi, and we need to help her.” He was right.
I talked with her about how the rape was not her fault and how very sorry I was that she had been subjected to such a violent act, and I praised her for not giving up and for seeking out the help of the social worker. I also told her that things would get better, even if that did not seem possible at the moment. She told me that she would go back into the clinic to sign in, and another gentleman said he would show her where to go. As we stood up together, she thanked me and said, “You shine brighter than the sun. The world needs your light.” I told her that I was only reflecting her light and warmth and that the world needed her around, too, and I meant that. Everyone has a purpose and a place in this life, and there is a certain light and strength that emerges from the darkness and madness, if only given a chance. I was more than happy to give her that chance, as she deserved it. We all do.
Sharing what she called my “light” was the best thing I did for myself, because it made me feel great to help someone who needed it the most. For whatever reason, our paths crossed, and I am glad that they did. I do not know if I ever will see her again, but I always will remember her.
Just one thing each day . . .
Categories: Just One Thing Each Day