It’s Christmas time in the city. We’re all running around town, searching for the perfect gifts, baking goodies for holiday gatherings, decorating trees and houses, attending parties and get togethers, checking off lists, and going crazy trying to squeeze it all in. Those are some of the things I was doing last week when I took a quick respite at Paradise Bakery.
I bought a warm bowl of soup and looked for a place to sit. As I was scanning the restaurant, I noticed an older woman with no one sitting around her even though the rest of the place was pretty full. I then noticed she was engaged in active conversation with (what appeared to be) herself. I considered this for a moment and then sat one table away from her. Perhaps it was the fact I was also alone, perhaps it was the fact I’m a slow eater and had time to process the whole thing, or perhaps it was all pre-ordained, but I noticed this woman. I noticed her beyond a passing glance and a quick judgment for talking to herself out loud.
I saw she had a picture sitting on the table of her and a man. They were sitting next to each other and they were smiling. I realized that this woman was having a conversation with the man in the photo. She would share things with him, pause for a response that only she heard, and then react with a laugh or a retort. She seemed to have a lot to catch up on. She talked about current events and a myriad of things and it was glaringly obvious that this woman wasn’t “crazy”. She was just very, very alone.
I felt nudged to approach her. I will admit I was a little nervous about it, but I decided to obey. So I finished my meal and walked up to her. The conversation went like this:
“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but I was wondering if I can ask you a question.”
“Yes”, she said.
“Did you lose your husband?”, I asked.
“He wasn’t my husband. He was a very dear friend”.
“It was four years ago. I miss him very much.”, she said.
“Can I just give you a hug?”, I asked.
“Yes.” She responded affirmatively with a smile and immediately stood to embrace me. We hugged and I embraced her for as long as I could.
She thanked me and I told her I would be praying for her. Then I left.
I have thought about her almost every day since then. She wasn’t sitting there with a husband, child, or some other relative. She wasn’t sitting with a friend reminiscing about their shared loss in the death of their friend. She was sitting with a framed picture on a table. She was alone.
Looking back, I wish I would have asked her more questions. I wish I would have sat down with her, bought us a cup of coffee, and asked her to share some stories with me about her friend. I wish I would have given her the gift of time and companionship. I think at the very least, The Lord knew she needed a hug and He sent me to do it.
During this hectic holiday season, my prayer is that we can all have a moment where we step outside ourselves and notice someone in need. Maybe it’s a material need, like a coat or shelter, maybe it’s an emotional need, maybe it’s physical. But, if you can, listen for that subtle nudge that tells you to act. Show the love of Jesus. As Linus says, “THAT’S what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”
I pray that we take time to notice our brothers and sisters in the world and do something kind for someone else. It is a gift to your own heart and soul, as well.