My encounters with strangers have been pretty extraordinary in what has suddenly become almost two years. By now it would seem only normal, only human, to become jaded to even the interest or enthusiasm of a stranger’s response to my quick offering of, “blessings on you, prayers before I go to sleep.” But amazingly, time and time again, when they quietly say, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that,” I’m beginning to think I do. I’ve heard it for years now and I’m and I’m no less moved when a woman at a fast-food restaurant drive thru says – “You don’t know how much you made my day! Oh, It’s going to be a happy day now! I just walked in telling folks I needed some extra prayer NOT FIVE MINUTES AGO and here you are already, pulling up to my window saying I’m your stranger to prayer for!” Her enthusiasm spilled right out over that window and into my jeep. I knew we were both going to have a better day.
Recently, a woman I passed in a grocery during my Thanksgiving rush to get that LIST said just about the same thing but she spoke with a much quieter voice and a heavy heart. Then she begin to tell me her story. The reason why she was depressed and the things going on in her life. I’d be heavy hearted too. She has an awesome burden to carry and it seems it just got a little heavier with the going. And as has become my habit, I paused that evening and looked into the fire for a long time and thought about her. I prayed for her Peace that a new joy would find it’s way into her life, and also that someone would show up at her door. Sometimes there really does need to be more than prayer. Maybe just a purposeful connection. Then it occurred to me that as much in a hurry as I had been, that woman had not be hurrying. Maybe for various reasons getting right back home was the last thing she wanted at the moment. maybe it was the last thing she needed. But I could have done what occurred to me later. I could have stood there and talked to her a little longer. No, that’s not quite right. I could have listened to her a little longer. Maybe offered to meet her some day at the local anywhere for a cup of coffee. Because sometimes telling your story to a stranger is a different medicine than to family and friends. I don’t know why this is truth but I know it is. I’m thinking as the year moves forward into a new one, as I meet these incredible people along the way, I have to embrace a way of taking it a little slower. Of making room in my life to listen longer if the person has begun to tell a story and what they really need most in that moment is just for someone to listen.