"The dew of compassion is a tear."
So I'm waiting at the photo counter in Walgreens (for the third time today) when a nice looking, well-dressed, clean and smelling good man announced that it was his birthday. He had a big ol' birthday smile on his face and two twelve-packs of beer for celebrating.
Even though I preach "don't talk to strangers" Sweetie says I rarely practice it. So of course, I smiled right back and told him congratulations. That might have been the end of the conversation except the birthday boy kept praising the name of Jesus and I had just come from church so I could relate to his spiritual enthusiasm as well.
Then as if a switch had been flipped, he told me tonight he'll celebrate his birthday and tomorrow he'll bury his best friend. His voice cracked. When he got close to tears, he'd praise Jesus. Since I'm still pretty raw emotionally when it comes to grief issues, I put my stranger danger warnings in my purse and told the guy how sorry I am for his loss. And just like the door between hurting human hearts opened and compassion walked in.
When dad was dying angels appeared when I least expected but most needed them. It might sound a bit egocentric to call myself an angel, but I believe the Divine Comforter used me to ease a stranger's pain in the least likely of places. Not a hospital, not a church, but in a drug store photo department.
The man's friend was 85 but didn't look a day over 60. They'd known each other since the birthday boy was a child. He'd been in really bad pain.
"It's hard to think of him as dead," choked the man, " he looked like he was sleeping. Jesus is so good. I saw him in church and then my mom called to tell me he was gone. Jesus is good. I haven't cried in front of his wife." Silent tears began trickling down his face. Without giving any thought to personal space, boundaries, or danger, I reached out and hugged this perfect stranger. I held him while he quietly sobbed. It wasn't a long embrace, but enough for both of us to feel the tiniest bit better.
The man dried his tears, and blessed the Lord one more time. I turned back to the photo desk. The man said he was going to go home and celebrate his birthday. Don't drink and drive, I warned. Oh no mam, I've got studying to do yet. I'll just go straight home and have one beer.
And as quickly as it had begun the connection was broken. I'm thinking, however, that it was a holy experience.
Today I'm grateful my heart is opening back up so I can pay forward the compassion that people showed me. I'm grateful for Robert in the photo department at Walgreens who helped me three different times to print the picture I wanted. I'm grateful for time spent with the Le Chat Noir Writing Circle. Oh how delightful it is to be back with my peeps.
Wishing for you someone who understands what you're feeling.