Most days are ordinary days at first glance – until I take a closer look. However, I have to slow down enough to encounter the extraordinary that surrounds me amid the mundane of the day or I will miss it, as I nearly did today -twice! Both encounters were unsought and unexpected. Both left my heart ripped open. Empathy can be a dangerous thing, it leaves us vulnerable to other people’s pain – as if we don’t already carry around enough pain of our own on a daily basis. Today I am reminded once again of the truth of these words –
“Be kind – for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle that you know nothing about.”
Certainly good advice, that I would do well to remember as I go about my day. Today I crossed paths with two courageous women, each waging war valiantly against her current life circumstances. But I would never have known nor suspected had I not been privileged to find myself in conversation with each one during my routine morning visit to the gym. The first woman joined our exercise class midway through. I noticed her because she took a spot in the back corner, which is where I position myself during the class, my reasoning being that if I mess up, (which I do often – call it a misstep, call it a mistake – the back corner is the safest place to be) no one will notice because no one will see me.
So I welcomed this new woman to the class and we had some casual conversation during the class. But nothing prepared me for what she revealed as after class we continued to converse. Turns out she is undergoing chemo for stage four cancer. You would not guess this based on her outward appearance. She looked perfectly healthy and her countenance, her smile, her eyes, her demeanor were vibrant, communicating her zest for life. I would not have guessed the battle she is valiantly fighting every day is against stage four cancer. She told me she comes to the gym every day, to keep her physical, mental and emotional well being strong. She is fighting back. She is not giving up. She has two teenage children and a supportive family. What an inspiration she must be to each and every one of them. She was an inspiration to me today! If she can continue to fight her battle so courageously, who am I to complain about mine or to consider ceasing to fight the good fight?
I was deep in thought from this conversation as I was leaving the gym when my progress was blocked by a woman with a walker, who stopped literally at the entrance where the automatic doors opened and closed. She was trying unsuccessfully, I realized, to pull car keys from her coat pocket before going out into the cold. (I agree with this move – I already had my keys in hand as I didn’t want to be out in this cold any longer than necessary) I didn’t want to appear rude by going around her, but was contemplating offering to help her get her keys in hand, when she procured said keys and began to slowly move forward. Normally I would walk right on by, being in my usual hurry and all, but for some reason I fell into step alongside of her and struck up a conversation.
Because I did that, I had the privilege of meeting another courageous woman waging war on her circumstances, not content to let them have the final say. She would have the last word and I hope she does. She was needing to have weight loss surgery in order to be eligible for some needed knee surgery. Both those things would take time and require rehabilitation, but if successful, she would no longer need a walker. She told me her goal was to be able to kick a ball around with her two-year-old grandson. A worthy goal – hope – a reason to fight the battle. I was blown away by her courage and her vision – not to accept her situation but to fight her battle to change what was within her power to change. She has a vision of how things can be if she is willing to show up every day and fight her battle.
It takes courage to keep going in the face of hard, difficult, seemingly insurmountable circumstances. It takes great courage to get out of bed and to show up every day. It takes courage not to surrender to fear, pain or despair. I am totally inspired by both these women and their stories. What an unexpected gift I was given today!
“Oh Lord, forgive me when I whine. I have two legs, the world is mine! . . . Oh Lord, forgive me when I whine. I have two eyes, the world is mine!” O Lord, forgive me when I whine, I have . . . the world is mine! I could fill that blank in with so many things that are the good gifts my Heavenly Father has given me – none of which I have earned or deserve. They are simply the result of God’s mercy and goodness.
“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9)
I go to the gym to get strong. Today I think my conversations with these two courageous women strengthened me more than my physical workout did. I am buoyed in spirit while being reminded once again, always to be kind because I have no idea the hard battles those around me are facing and fighting every day. Today I got a look behind the curtain at two such battles and the courageous women who are fighting them. May I always be ready to lend a hand, an ear, words of encouragement and of hope, a prayer, a plea – may I take the time to stand in the gap.
Thank You, Lord, for the privilege of sharing the burdens of others. You are the Author of empathy. You took on flesh and came to make Your home with us for awhile – just so You could walk a mile in our shoes. Yes, You truly are the Author of empathy!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
sincerely, Grace Day
One thought on “an ordinary day – extraordinary encounters”
I love when God places people in our paths..it’s no coincidence…it’s our benevolent God sometimes allowing us to be the hands, feet, eyes and ears of Jesus, and sometimes he allows others to be Christ to us in that encounter.