Year’s ago, while sitting in a coffee shop by myself, a young woman sat at the table across from me and cried. I remember thinking at the time that I would like to get up and ask her if there was anything I could do. To offer a listening ear, a hug, some reassurance to help her through whatever the pain was she was feeling in that moment.
I did nothing.
At the time, I was immersed in my own drama and angst, faltering on life’s road as I sank deeper and deeper into a relationship that was killing me. I remember thinking, what can I offer her when I am so sad and scared myself? How can I give her solace when I am so lacking in peace of mind?
I let my fear of rejection hold me back and I did nothing.
Fast forward several years and the inertia of that moment reminds me to not let fear hold me back from reaching out to those I encounter on my path who I sense are in need of solace.
Recently, at a play during the Fringe Festival, I sat beside a young woman who, even though the play was a comedy, began to cry with heart-wrenching sobs in the darkness of the theatre.
I wanted to reach out and hold her hand and let her know, she was safe.
So I did. I did not let my fear of rejection, or being wrong in my summation of the situation, hold me back.
I made the human connection. She gripped my hand tightly for a few moments, her sobs eased and the play moved on.
After the play we stood and chatted for a few moments and I asked her if I could give her a hug. “I don’t know what is happening in your life right now,” I whispered as I wrapped her in my arms. “I am sorry you are in such pain.”
She clung to me for a few moments, gripped me tightly, thanked me and then stepped back. We went our separate ways.
On Sunday, while walking with Beaumont at the off leash park, a woman walked towards me. As she wasn’t walking a dog I called Beaumont to my side. I don’t like him to bother people unless invited. As the distance between us closed, she called out and said it was okay for Beaumont to greet her. I come to the dog park to get a puppy fix, she said. It’s hard to be sad when watching the antics of dogs, and their owners, she added.
We chatted for a few moments and she kept dabbing beneath her eyes with a kleenex. I thought her tears were caused by the smoke that has clutched our city for the past week as the winds have blown the smoke from the fires south of the border north.
Are you okay? I asked.
Not really, she replied.
I looked at her as tears streamed down her face and asked, “You seem very sad. Can I give you a hug?”
She started to shake her head from side to side and midway stopped and said, “Yes please.”
And we embraced on the ridge overlooking the river. And the smoke swirled around us and Beaumont sat at our feet.
I’m getting a divorce, she said. It’s really awful.
I’ve had one of those I told her. It hurts. But it does get better. In fact, it gets so much better I just got married.
She stepped back out of our embrace and said, “You did? You actually trusted a man enough to do that?”
I smiled and told her that it wasn’t about trusting a man, it was about learning to trust myself enough to know, I am okay, no matter what happens.
We were married 35 years, she told me. He left me for his cousin.
That must have really hurt, I said.
She nodded her head.
I am sorry for your pain. Sorry this happened to you, I told her. In time, the pain will ease.
Will the tears stop? she asked.
I smiled and told her yes. They do.
Thank you she said, and we parted and went our separate ways. As she walked away she stopped and turned back towards me and said. “Thank you for the hug. I needed that.”
Years ago a young woman sat in a coffee shop across from me and cried. I did nothing.
I thank her today for teaching me the value of doing something whenever I have the chance to make a connection and let a stranger know, I see you. I do not know what burden you are carrying but for this moment, let me help you carry it so you do not feel alone.