Today began like any other. I had errands to do and stopped by a local pack and ship store to drop off an Amazon return. I simply had to drop off the box, a task that normally takes two minutes. Instead, I found myself in line at an appropriate social distance from an elderly woman for a time a little longer than those two minutes I expected. She looked uncomfortable and started making subtle noises to confirm my suspicion. I walked a little closer toward her and asked if she was okay. She waved her hand, a gesture indicating that she likely wanted me to stay away because of covid, and said she was okay. She told me she had some difficulty standing, so I pointed to a few counters against which she could stand and assured her I would hold her place next in line. I watched her shrink into the counter, as though it was holding her up right before she was called as next in line by the clerk.
I overheard her tell the clerk that she wasn’t well and asked softly for some help. Evidently she was mailing a medical CD to a surgeon in Tampa via overnight mail. She looked like she was shrinking into the counter again when I heard her say that she had cancer, and the cancer was pressing against her nerves. She had tears in her eyes when she said to the clerk it was difficult to have cancer during the pandemic, as her family could not come to see her right now accordingly. I looked at another woman standing in line next to me, and she looked so sad while the story unfolded. She motioned to me that she wondered if the woman was able to drive. I said “Excuse me” to the sick woman and asked if she needed me to call her an UBER to get home or if she needed me to get her some water next door at Walgreens. She said she could easily drive after she sat down, and it was just standing that was difficult before she thanked me. At that moment, the woman at the very end of the line, which was growing by the minute, offered to pay for the sick woman’s postage. The sick woman graciously declined, thanked her and said “God is in this room right now; you have all been so kind.” I looked at each of the people in line who likely were in a rush but found deep within themselves a sense of compassion and empathy that I had not seen in the world in a while. Most folks go about their day, doing the best they can during the pandemic, trying to manage. Yet this woman was facing the greatest fight of her life most likely and facing it alone.
Now I am not sure what you believe, whether you believe in a higher power or not, but the woman next to me offered to pray for the sick woman and so did the people next to her and so on. Some may debate whether or not God was in that room at that moment, but there WAS something very powerful and humbling unfolding before my very eyes this afternoon. There was a sense of community and connectedness that I experienced all within ten minutes or so unfolding before my very eyes. Most of us struggle to find our keys from time to time or to find time in which to accomplish the tasks we set out to do on any given day, and this woman’s plight pales many of our inconveniences or troubles by comparison.
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela
Yes, there WAS something in that room, regardless of your religious beliefs, and that was HOPE and compassion.
Life is good; find the hope in your lives today. Carpe diem, friends…..
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu