Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Woman in the Parking Lot

When you have two small kids and you're out doing errands trying to beat an incoming Nor'Easter the morning before Thanksgiving, making small-talk with a stranger in a parking lot is not the event you'd like to have happen.

But yet, there I was yesterday morning hurrying back to my car after grabbing diapers when a woman saw me pushing my tandem stroller back to the mom-mobile when she called out "Happy Thanksgiving!". Not wanting to be a Grumpy Gus, I smiled and said "You as well!" to which she replied "Thank God this only happens once a year... right?". I then laughed in kind and heard her mumble "Oh, but then there's Christmas... and New Year's".

There was something in the way that she said those last words that gave me pause. This was not a woman who had joy on her heart, but rather seemed overwhelmed. I turned around as I loaded the second kid into the car to give her a smile and said "Happy Thanksgiving, again!".

She stopped and smiled. "Oh, yes. You too. I'm so... there's just so much to do..."

I closed the door to the car after making sure both kids were snug and secure in their carseats, and turned back to the woman. She was maybe in her mid-50's, sweatshirt and jeans, blonde-grey hair quickly styled. She looked overwhelmed and concerned. I made eye contact with her and smiled.

She put her hand to her forehead and sighed. "I work in a nursing home and I have to work tomorrow," she said. Then she looked at me as if wondering if she should continue or not. I could tell that she wanted - no, needed - to, so I acknowledged what she said. "Well, I can tell you that if I had family in a nursing home, I would be more thankful than I can express that someone would be there to make sure my family member had a good Thanksgiving. It's better than retailers making their cashiers work just to make a buck."

Market Basket - More for your Dollar (and heart, apparently)

I could see her shoulders relax as she continued to tell me the rest of the story. She wasn't just working in a nursing home on Thanksgiving. She had to get there and organize the meal; this meant she had to organize the team cooking and serving the meal as well as making sure that the reservations/serving times for each family were in order so the holiday could go without a hitch for the residents and their families.

She had to arrive at the nursing home at 2:00 AM to start this process. Then after that was all done, she had to go to the airport to see if her brother had arrived from Switzerland for the holiday.

As she wrapped up her story, the look of worry took over her face again as she sighed and rubbed her temples.

It was then that it hit me... the Nor'Easter.

She had to drive to work in the middle of a snowstorm predicted to bring snow, sleet, and rain. She wasn't just overwhelmed - she was nervous. And I could relate, because I hate (and I mean HATE) driving in those conditions.

I decided in that moment that I didn't care about personal space or the fact that this woman was a complete stranger. I walked over to her and gave her a hug. Suddenly she was laughing and I said "Have a wonderful Thanksgiving... be safe, have fun" and rubbed her arms before letting go. She smiled and said "Oh, thank you! You too!" and walked back to her car.

I slowly got in mine and put both hands on the steering wheel when I realized I had a huge lump in my throat and that I was holding back tears. I took a few deep breaths and as one of them let go from the corner of my eye, I said a prayer. I asked God to help calm her heart, to protect her on the roads during the storm, to let her find joy in the moments of service and to enjoy the holiday.

As I said "Amen", I heard my son's little voice from behind me. "Mommy, otay? Wanna go home now. Mommy otay?"

"Yeah, Buddy. Mommy's OK. We're going home right now."

I share this story because I want to encourage you today too. I want to encourage you to open your heart to let God move in and use you. Use you for big things, use you for small things, but to use you. I find that He tends to use me for small things, but I know that those small things - those "lead from behind" things - make a difference to His people. I encourage you to pray that He help you to hear His voice. I don't always, but I find when I do it's for something that requires love.

I don't know why I was moved to cry. But I do know that God moved me to love on that woman yesterday. To be there for her  - maybe because no one else was. Maybe because if she didn't have release in that moment she would not have been able to release some of the nervousness. Maybe because sometimes people just need to vent to feel better.

Maybe because she just needed a hug, and God knows that I love to hug.

I don't know the why, but I know that God used me yesterday.

He wants to use all of us.

Today - Thanksgiving - I am thankful that God uses His children to do things. To do big things. To do small things. But all of the things that He calls us to do... all of the things matter.

Ask Him to use you too.

Happy Thanksgiving.