I had something happen to me a few nights ago that I haven’t been able to get off my mind.
The other evening I finished my night class. I had to rush to catch the early bus and stood on the corner waving like a mad woman so the bus driver would see me as he made his way around the corner.
I was grumpy and tired.
I had spent the day at the library studying for an exam. My daughter cried when I left because she hadn’t been able to cuddle with me “All day!” I missed my husband and my girl. My mind drifted to my warm, cozy bed where I would soon find solace.
While wallowing in self-pity, a woman and her two small children came onto the bus. She and her youngest sat in the seat ahead of me, and her oldest filled the vacant seat beside me. She gave me a tired smile. I smiled back, noting she was likely close to my daughter’s age.
Within minutes, she had fallen asleep. Her little head bobbed on and off of my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” the mom said to me.
“I don’t mind.” I replied. I honestly didn’t. It was late, and obviously past bedtime.
As I stared down at the sleeping girl beside me, I found myself judging this mom.
Why were her kids up so late?
What was she doing on the bus at this hour?
They should be home in bed, I self-righteously said to myself.
By the time we reached the bus station, both children were sound asleep. I offered to help the mom carry her babies and her bags off the bus.
When we got off the bus to a deserted station, I began to sense her panic. It was dark, it was cold, and it was late. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, hugging her youngest close to her chest.
I knew I needed to help her.
I offered to give her a ride. She hesitated. I told her I would drive her wherever they needed to go. Again, she hesitated. I reassured her I didn’t mind, to please let me help her. Then, in a faint voice, she told me.
I immediately understood her hesitation.
We bundled her babies up in my car and I drove them where they needed to go.
It broke my heart. In an instant I was brought back to reality. I was brought back to how profoundly blessed I am. How mediocre and ridiculous my earlier worries seemed.
I drove home; hot tears spilling down my face. When I walked through the door of my warm, safe home, and saw my husband, my heart exploded. I couldn’t muster any words. He wrapped me in his loving arms as I explained what had happened.
It took me a long time to fall asleep that night. I am still thinking about this woman. I feel grateful for being able to help her, but I feel incredibly embarrassed for judging her.
I had no right.
I had no idea the story of her life.
Sometimes people are put in our path to influence our lives, and this woman did exactly that. Through our brief encounter, this woman exemplified strength and courage. Her love for her children was evident. She reminded me of something I often forget. This woman helped me remember to be thankful for each and every day. But, most importantly, she reminded me of the importance of kindness. We never know the path someone else is traveling.
The lessons she reminded me of are simple:
This experience will stay with me forever.
I will likely never see this woman again.
But, if I ever do, I will tell her how brave and strong she truly is.