Here’s a quick little story for this end-of-the-week post.
As my mom and I were going on a walk along my city’s bike trail (which, might I add, they should have clear lanes of traffic or something), and since we were on a busier section of the trail, we came across many different people. With the townspeople as nice as they are, they often will greet us with a smile or a “good morning” as we pass.
However, one person we came across was more than a passing exchange of few words. Along the river, I saw coming up an older woman pushing a covered mesh stroller. I was slightly giddy wondering if she was pushing a dog in there. While there wasn’t a dog, she was actually pushing her cat.
The cat had apparently undergone some less than favorable experiences recently. She only had three legs because a cancer had spread through the fourth one and had to be amputated. The woman cares so much for this cat and knowing she liked to walk outside, she traded a leash for a stroller.
The woman, who happened to have a European accent I couldn’t quite place, asked my mom and I directions for a certain strip mall nearby. The woman didn’t seem to have a phone or anything else with her, so it made sense she needed some help.
It turned out that was she new to the city. She was originally living in Florida, but she didn’t say her reasons for moving north. My mom and I were probably with this woman for about ten minutes as she opened up to us about her struggles of being in a completely new environment. Besides her cat’s ailing health, she has been trying to find a job that would suit her credentials and has come up empty. Even with an advanced degree in cosmetology, younger and less qualified applicants had been chosen over her.
She also became teary eyed as she admitted how lonely she felt. As a single woman living in an apartment, she had not reached out much to anybody nearby and, in general, felt very lost. She was stressed, concerned about her and her cat’s well-being, and trying to find the determination to keep moving forward.
But let me tell you, being around her was a comforting experience. She discussed how much she loved being in nature. In fact, whenever she walks, she picks up pieces of littered plastic along the way, sticking it in a little compartment on the cat stroller. She had even stopped driving to pick up a littered street, warning others who planned to go in that direction. One time when picking up litter, she stopped to see a yellow-chested bird sitting calmly on a bench, seeming to be singing a sweet song to her before flying away, a little sign of hope.
While we weren’t able to exchange any names or phone numbers, my mom and I empathized and comforted this woman as she opened up, even suggesting calling the suicide hotline for some support. She refused to think about trying medication that might mess with her body, a completely understandable opinion, but we suggested the options that were available.
What was meant to be a simple walk through some city parks turned into an experience that felt almost surreal. When you feel like you were truly meant to be somewhere at that exact moment, to cross paths with certain people. It’s a reminder of how incredible life is and the impact we can each have, even if that impact is subtle.
Because, let’s face it, we’ve all been in this woman’s shoes. Obviously not the exact same situation, but there comes a time when we are overwhelmed, that we feel like we’re drowning in an endless sea. We ask God or the universe, “What more am I supposed to bear? What else can go wrong?”
No matter what we are facing, there always is and will be hope. And when we lose sight of that, we must rely upon our resources to revive our spirits and remind us of this simple fact. Amidst all of the cacophony, we are distracted from that little bird singing its sweet song. We should not feel ashamed for admitting when we need that push, whether that is self-care, reaching out to loved ones, or utilizing therapy and medication.
I don’t think I’ll ever see that woman again. And if I do, I know that it will again be for a reason. From simple moments come life’s greatest lessons. We reach out to those who may need our words and actions and vice versa. I will never doubt that there are some people in this world who angels without wings, bearing our souls and testing us in ways we might not expect.
If I can communicate just a smidgen of my experience on the bike trail last week, I want everyone to know that vulnerability can be a lifeline that we must cherish. We should view each person we may come across, whether that’s a best friend or stranger passing by, as an opportunity to spread love and compassion. We must realize our shared burden of hardship in life, a universal trait of humanity, and know that support is always within reach.
So life may be full of hardship, but it’s full of these tidbits that make every hardship worth it.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie