Someone I never met changed my life forever. I can still picture the whole scene in my mind. To the rest of the world, the specific moment may have gone completely unnoticed. In fact, even when I’ve tried to explain what happened to others, they still don’t seem to understand how this small moment in time could have such a significant impact on my life. But it did. And God has used it to allow me to see circumstances and people differently. That’s kind of how He works sometimes, through gentle nudges. One thing I know for sure is I don’t ever want to ignore His small whispers again. Here’s the story of the “lost moment” that changed my life and the way I look at things.
Several years ago, my friend and I took our young daughters on a trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago to celebrate their birthdays. We did the same trip the year before, and had so much fun, we decided to do it again. Girl days are the best (especially when you are surrounded by boys), and we couldn’t wait! We got up early to catch our train, which took us to Union Station. From there we caught a cab to our final destination- The American Girl Store. We had a great day with the girls, and did the whole “American Girl Experience”. We lunched at the cafe with our girls (and their “girls”); picked out new doll outfits; and even stopped at the “doll hospital” because one of the “girls” had a loose head. When we were all dolled-out, we caught a cab back to the train station. To keep up with our tradition, we stopped at Nuts On Clark, located in Union Station, so I could get my cheese, caramel, and kettle corn mix for the ride home. (Note: If you have never had Nuts on Clark popcorn, please make sure you do so before you die. It is one of the best things on earth.) When we boarded our train, the girls wanted to sit on the upper level of the train. My friend said she would go sit up there with them. I am afraid of heights, and the thought of sitting up top made me want to toss my American Girl cookies I had with lunch. I was perfectly happy to sit down below, alone with my popcorn.
That is when it happened. The train made a scheduled stop in one of the Illinois towns on the way home. It had started to rain, and I watched a young woman struggling to get her unhappy toddler and her crying baby on to the train. She was also carrying a large over-stuffed duffle bag. I could tell something was wrong. The baby and the toddler were screaming, and by the look on her face, I could see this young mom was crying too. I continued to watched the woman rocking her wailing baby from side to side, while she stared blankly out the window at the world rushing by. I thought about offering to help her. I wanted to do something to help her. But I chose to do the worst possible thing I could have done… absolutely nothing. As the train came to her stop, she did her best to gather up all of her belongings and babies, and somehow managed to to get down the stairs and off the train. And just like that- she was gone. And so was the opportunity to do something- anything– to help her. To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t reach out to her. What was I afraid of? Did I think she was dangerous? I don’t remember feeling threatened by her. I mean, she had two young children with her, how threatening could she have been?
I made a promise to myself that I would not let a chance like that go by again. It’s not enough to just “feel bad” for someone who may be hurting. It’s our responsibility as human beings to do something about it. I asked God to open my eyes to those who are hurting, and to make me brave and bold enough to do something about it.
After that little chat with God, things got cray. I found myself smack dab in the middle of SO many situations where I’ve had the chance to help someone else. I’ve chased coupons and receipts through a Target parking lot on a windy day when a woman’s purse accidentally dumped out. I’ve helped push the shopping carts of young moms who struggled to hold the hands of their toddlers on the way back to their minivans. I even watched a man run into a stop light and get thrown from his truck onto the pavement right in front of me. I covered him with clothes I found in my car, held his hand, and waited with him until help came. It wasn’t until I got back into my car, with shaking hands, covered with someone else’s blood, that it all sunk in what just happened. God was answering my prayer. And that is wild, amazing, and freakin’ scary, all at the same time. Here’s the thing- I think we are all given these moments to do something every single day. It’s just a matter of how we perceive what’s going on around us.
It’s crazy to think someone I’ve never met and know nothing about can have such a big impact on my life. The young woman on the train will never know how much that short moment in time affected me. She made me want to be a better person. I wanted to share this story because we often only have one shot to make a difference in someone’s life. Those chances are gifts, and we need to be careful not to waste them.
If I had the chance to see her one more time, this is what I would say: “I saw you. I know you were doing the best you could. You are a good mom; I could see it by the way you rocked your baby boy, and the way you gently held your daughter’s hand. Being a mom is rough sometimes, isn’t it? It was a hard day, and I am sorry I didn’t try to help you. I have thought about you often and I pray you never gave up hope. You are worth it. Those babies are worth it. Sometimes life gets almost unbearable and we don’t know if we can fight anymore. Know that I’m on your side and I’m rooting for you, wherever you are. I am your cheerleader. Thank you for being such an inspiration in my life. You have made a difference.”