She wasn’t a total stranger. I knew of her, having met her at a previous family gathering, but she wasn’t yet a close friend and she didn’t know about me, and as far as I knew, she didn’t know much of anything about my loss. It was at a later family gathering where this story took place.
We rarely had the opportunity to visit, but when we did, they would always invite us to see the sights the city had to offer. Today, they wanted to take us to the Holocaust Museum. Ugh. I didn’t think I was in the mood for something I assumed would be depressing, but I said nothing, not wanting to put a damper on their plans. We stepped inside and were immediately assigned to a group. Each group member was handed a card on which was pictured a real holocaust victim and a bit of their history, which was intended to make the horrific story from long ago come alive, and become personal to each visitor.
Already I was feeling a sense of dread as we descended a flight of stairs. Then immediately to my right and the full length of the wall, as I recall, was a mural. On this mural was a blown-up black and white picture of stacked, layer upon layer of . . . corpses. If you have visited this museum, then you know the shock of looking upon this scene and I lost it.
I came totally unglued, unraveling right in front of my family. It wasn’t a couple of tears while biting my lip in the attempt to fight back the urge to scream. No. It was an instant wail from deep within and then the dam burst. I was shocked at my sudden reaction, but stood there helpless and powerless to stop it. And before me stood my family, staring at me, not unlike the little family of Meerkats in the picture above ~ mouths open in disbelief and frozen in place like statues. No one made a move toward me.
Then suddenly, she was by my side. She took me by the arm, and in her no-nonsense approach, she told the family to go on ahead, and whisked me away from the horrific wall, back up the steps, and into the safety of the Gift Shop. I could now begin to muffle my sobs, dry my eyes and attempt to get myself back under control. I told her how embarrassed I felt. She would hear none of it. Instead, she encouraged me to cry all I needed to, and left me alone to gather myself again while she wandered around the Gift Shop, looking at all the items on display.
I will never forget her care of me at such a time of great need. She reacted differently than anyone else. They seemed to turn to stone, but she had the presence of mind to get me out of there and I will always remember her kindness. It’s not that she spoke eloquent words. She barely spoke at all. It was, plain and simple, her spontaneous act of kindness that gifted me at that moment. Needless to say, she is no longer a stranger. We have bonded heart to heart.
Perhaps you have also experienced kindness from an unexpected source? Care to share? I have often been disappointed by someone I expected to give me what I longed for, but didn’t. But over time, I have come to realize that I must lower my expectations in an attempt to quell the feelings of disappointment after someone, who knows me and my story well, fails to deliver. But perhaps it’s a daunting expectation to think that people know just what I need at a particular moment? To be fair, they aren’t mind readers, and if it has been a reasonable period of time, they’d likely expect that life should have long since carried me beyond grief, and they’d be right?
But of course, they would be wrong. Grief, the kind that follows child loss, does not go away after a period of time, but tags along with us for the rest of our lives, so we are subject to unexpected encounters at any time and thus, it creates a quandary for those around us. It’s no one’s fault, but a fact of our lives going forward. Maybe this story will spark a memory from your memory bank, reminding you when a simple gesture made a friend out of a stranger. If not, may there be someone who will come along side you, when you need a lift, and connect heart to heart, even if only for a moment. Even brief moments can be treasures for a lifetime.
“Will [you] show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.” Joshua 2:12 NIV