This morning I was walking down the street and was stopped by a woman missing a few teeth who said she had just checked into a battered woman’s shelter and asked if I would buy her a coffee and a muffin. She followed me into Starbucks and I asked her how long she had been there and what the program was like. She told me that she stayed there over night but they had to leave in the morning – but that she was just so grateful that she had a place to stay at night. I told her that she’s made the most important step and that her move took a lot of courage. “I don’t have a dime to my name,” she said, “but I’m so happy and grateful.” It was really refreshing to see someone who had nothing yet had such a buoyant spirit, strength and grace – not to mention being truly grateful for the smallest gesture. One time a homeless woman asked me for a couple bucks for breakfast. When I told her I only had a $20 on me she asked me if I could go into a store and get change. So I went into the bagel shop behind her and got her a bagel. I handed her the brown bag and she said, “Thank you.” I got no more than 3 feet away from her and she yells, “I don’t like bread!” and then proceeded to hurl the bagel at my head. I almost got out of the nice business after that one.
But I digress. She went on to say that she was at the very bottom so things can only get better. I decided to share my ‘I got fired on my birthday story’ and told her about my struggles with alcohol. This woman was tiny but you could tell she was a spitfire who had overcome a lot – escaping domestic violence was the most recent obstacle she had conquered. She told me a story about how she was once in the hospital for drinking so much that she had to re-learn how to walk and re-build her memory. She was so desperate to feel better so she didn’t have to drink so she did what most people would do at this juncture – she prayed and begged. And she conquered it. As we were discussing this I said to her, “You know the real danger is when things start going well for you. The tendency when everything is good is to start getting overly confident and a little bit too cocky. Like, ‘I got it. I got this now.’ That very moment when you think you have everything under control (cause we like to think we’re sooo smart) is when it hits the proverbial fan.” She said to me, “Well this is what you do. Whenever you start feeling that way, all you do is rewind the tape. Go back to that place where you were scared straight, remember it and then be grateful.” I really needed to hear that. Meeting her this morning started my day off on the right foot, and I hope it gave her some hope that there are good people out there…but the reality is she was like an angel messenger.
You just never know the ripple effects of the smallest actions. You never know how you might affect someone else’s life or day or how they might affect yours. Stay open.