I just had one of the most amazing and moving moments of my life and I really felt compelled to share it. I posted on Facebook a while back about a girl sitting on the sidewalk near my office. She was young and she so reminded me of myself. I had exchanged a glance with her and I wanted to do more, say more. I resolved myself in that moment that if I ever saw her again I would stop.
For those of you who don’t know I stayed on the streets and couch “surfed” for a bit in my late teens. It wasn’t long at all but I can recall with total clarity the feeling of being hungry, the worry about where I was going to sleep, who else was going to be around me when I did and the deep seeded desire to belong somewhere and to have someone tell me it was going to be okay.
There were numerous issues that lead me to that place. Family turmoil, issues being “swept under the rug” so that neighbors wouldn’t know and the chaotic mix of teenage rebellion and confusion.
I am truly one of the lucky ones as I was able to dig myself out of that deep hole that I was slipping into and while I have never let that experience define me it has without question helped to shape the person I have become.
Today as I was walking on my lunch break I saw the same girl. This time I didn’t walk by. This time I took the chance and I stopped. I put money in her hat and then I knelt down beside her. I took off my sunglasses and I looked her right in the eyes so that she would know that someone SAW her.
I told her that I had been where she is and that it would be alright even if it didn’t seem that way. She looked at me like she was amazed that anyone was taking the time to have this conversation with her. She responded that she had been there in life many times before. I looked at her with all the care and empathy my heart could muster and I told her that I understood and that the biggest thing she needed to do was not stop believing in herself, ever.
She smiled. She thanked me with every crease in the corner of her mouth. She thanked me with the light that came into her eyes. I walked away holding that moment close to me.
I don’t know where this girl will end up. I hope it’s some place positive because it is possible. Wherever that is, my wish is that she will take that simple interaction with her and remember it when she feels she’s alone because she’s not.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing I hope that the chance to stop comes your way too.