A few years ago I nearly missed a life-changing moment. It was a moment that could have taken about 4 seconds, but lasted 20 minutes and ended with sharing kindness with a stranger instead.
Before my sickness took a deeper hold on my ability to drive and walk short distances without trouble, I spent my time resting and crafting when my hands were able. On my better days I’d drive myself to Michaels to pick up a few craft supplies for a project I could slowly work on.
On this seemingly ordinary trip to Michaels, I was checking out at a register with my newest installment of crafting materials. I was about to pull out my debit card when I noticed a few singles I had from a recent return.
I pulled them out to put toward my bill and paid the rest with my debit card. After finishing the transaction, I picked up my bags and headed out the door.
As soon as I stepped outside I was greeted by a man in his late 50s. He sat in a wheelchair, wore a hat and spoke with a thick, southern drawl. As I approached, he removed his hat and spoke.
“‘Scuse me, Miss. Do you happen to have any spare change? Anything at all, I’d be most appreciative.”
I instantly thought back to handing the only cash I had to the clerk inside. I told him I was sorry, but I didn’t have any cash on me. He dropped his head, put his hat back on and smiled a sad sort of smile, thanking me anyway.
I took a step forward to leave and felt a tug in my spirit – a softly spoken,
“Kami, what are you going to do with this moment?”
I paused and remembered that something I had much of in this roller-coaster-season with my health, is time. Lots of it. I’m not in a hurry as I have no place to be, so why am I feeling a need to rush off? I took a step back.
“While I don’t have cash I’d be happy to buy you a meal if you’re hungry. Is there a place nearby you like?”
I could hardly get the words out before he gladly accepted and informed me there was a “Panda Bear” nearby that he would most definitely like to eat at.
(If you’ve already figured out where he was talking about, good for you. I, however, had a deer-in-the-headlights blank stare. But I pretended I knew what he was talking about…)
“Sure! Whatever you want, sir.”
He was visibly excited. “Oh YES, that’d be just fine. They have that oriental food over there.”
I couldn’t help but smile. No filter or PC with that statement, but he had a sweetness that couldn’t go undetected. Finally, it clicked that we were heading to Panda Express.
So I slowly walked beside him as he navigated his scooter across the parking lot toward the “Panda Bear.” We exchanged names and I asked him if he would share a bit about his story.
He gladly began. He shared of his struggles, lost love, and matters of the heart. He told me about his family troubles and his life as a veteran. I heard his life story, the 10 minute version. As he shared from the various stages of his life, I could hear the pain in his words.
He paused his story as we waited in line for his food and on our walk back he opened up about the times he’s asked others for help. How he’s watched people flip through their 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, and 5s only to respond that they’ll have to “go get change.” Only to return with a quarter or two that they toss at him for fear of getting too close or touching him.
The more he shared, the more I felt his ache. The feelings of rejection, avoidance, and of being discarded were palpable. But what he said next will stay with me forever:
“And you know, when they do that I just smile and say thank you because it’s more than I had before. But, you know what? It makes me feel like I’m gonna cry. Because it makes me feel like I’m not worth anything. That I’m not valuable enough.”
My empathetic heart paused and felt the weight of that statement.
I told him I could only imagine how that must feel, but that I believe everyone deserves kindness. I said that I hoped he felt that from me that day.
In that moment with my new friend, I had no idea what his spiritual views were. But as we neared the entrance to Michaels I sensed an openness about him. So I asked if he was comfortable with me praying with him before I said goodbye. He slipped his hat right off and eagerly agreed with a “yes, Miss. I’d like that.”
And there, in the middle of a parking lot, I placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed a short, simple prayer that he would feel loved and be provided for. I asked for him to be shown kindness in the days to come.
We exchanged a warm handshake and a smile, he thanked me and we parted ways. I never saw him near the Michaels again.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the times I’ve missed opportunities like this to share kindness. So many moments I was in too much of a hurry, had too much on my mind or didn’t have a dollar to spare.
This moment that he may or may not even remember, has stuck with me these last three years. Not because it was a big event, or because “I did something good.”
It’s stayed with me because I was reminded of an important truth. That although we can’t always help everybody in the way that they ask us to,
we can always show love.
We can listen.
We can care.
In doing so we reflect the heart of God, the heart of humanity. And, in turn, we gain a little more perspective on the things that truly matter:
People. Hearts. Kindness.
And it can all begin with one life-changing, yet ordinary moment over a plate of takeout with a perfect stranger.
In the spirit of sharing kindness, would you consider sharing or giving to my friend Nellie-Jean’s family fundraiser? Their burden, both financial and emotional is heavy: she is fighting Lyme, her 13-year-old son is going through chemotherapy, and they are about to lose their place of residence…just to name a few of their struggles.
Can we be community and support them? Maybe it means we skip the coffee or make a meal at home and spare $5, $20, $50 to help a neighbor in need? Click here to give or share the Russell-Lopez Fundraiser.