I Learned Something Today


Theres a lady in her late 50 s early 60 s that I see just about everyday. I say hello but Ive never really wanted to engage her in conversation. I wrote her off a long time ago as surly and a sourpuss and just didnt have time for any of that. She always has this grim look on her face like she eats children for lunch.
Later I was in another part of the building and I noticed a xeroxed copy with a photo and description of a young woman, height, weight, age and an explanation that she had been missing since June of 2004. Her car had been found in another city with her diabetic medication in the car.

Then I noticed the last name and it was the same as the grim woman who Id been trying to avoid, so I asked and a gal told me it was her daughter. Shed been missing and there hasnt been a word. The police have exhausted all leads, tips and any evidence that was left behind with no success. She told me that a psychic had been consulted and was now working with the police as they had nowhere else to turn.

She also told me that this woman was hanging on to the hope that somehow, somewhere she was still alive. It doesnt sound plausible but she had to believe, this was her daughter and she was in so much anguish not knowing.

That she said was the torture not knowing, Im sure the imagination must conjure up horrible images, if I had a child I dont know how I could cope with that. This lady then went on to tell me that she also very recently has battled with breast cancer, this while dealing with her daughters disappearance. I sat there listening to the details of her illness with my head hung trying to know how that must feel, but of course I cant know. She then went on to explain that she also is the sole caregiver for her invalid mother.

Thats what she goes home to at night, everynight. I dont know how she does that, I cant know what drives her to continue because I never took the time to see her as a real human being, as a person with a life. When I looked all I saw was a big grump that I didnt want to be around. We cant get involved in everybodies lives and whatever their problems are, but maybe we shouldnt jump to conclusions either. Weve all done it, its easier than listening I mean we have our own problems right ?

As I listened to how this womans life had been turned upside down with no resolution in sight only the outside hope that a psychic might get a glimpse of something tangible to give to the police, I realized how unfair I had been, how I had judged this woman and sentenced her to isolation because I thought I knew something about her. But I didnt, I never gave her a chance. Theres nothing I can do to help her or change her situation and I dont know if shell survive her cancer or who will take care of her mother if she doesnt. But I do know I have to do something to let her know that shes been recognized, thought about, that somebody is willing to stop for a moment and feel compassion with her or for her.

One day next week Ill bring her a small bouquet of flowers or maybe a box of chocolates. I wont pretend that will cheer her up after all her problems run deeper than I can even imagine, yet maybe for one moment shell forget. Maybe for just a tiny portion of time she can smile before she must go back to live in her nightmare. I learned a valuable lesson today, one I wont soon forget, I think this is one Ill be using frequently in the future and that is to never assume I know what goes through the minds and hearts of another. To not be so quick to judge someone because of their demeanor.

I did this woman a great injustice and missed a real opportunity to be a good man. She might not have ever shared any of her problems with me but I dont know that either. If I learned anything today its that next time I see someone that looks like theyve been kicked around Ill offer a hand or a smile instead of turning my back. We all need compassion and human kindness from time to time. _________________ The purpose of life is a life of purpose