I came across Help Others one afternoon at work and I left my office that day filled with inspiration, wondering how I could make a difference in someone's life, even if only for a moment. I'm in a period of transition moving to a new home as a single parent with three children, finances are tight, my mom is fighting ovarian cancer, my sister has been laid off, my ex-husband is out of work. Life is less than rosy for me right now and I was eager for an opportunity, quite honestly just to feel better about life and make someone else feel better. I was eager to give.
As I left the parking lot, I made my way down the street towards my home. It was an especially hot day even at this late hour of the afternoon. I stopped at an intersection and idly watched a young woman make her way through the heat. I noticed she was limping and that the weight of the sun and the distance that lay ahead were visible on her face.
I realized that I knew her from work and figured out that she must be walking home. I also knew why she was limping she had had a bad car crash with a fatality with much time required for her and her family for recovery. I debated whether to honk and at least say hello, but I didn't want to startle her. Still, I was overwhelmed with the desire to reach out to her. I lightly tapped my horn and she slightly moved her head my way, but then kept walking without looking up. I had just seconds before my light would turn green and I would have to go and she would be gone…so this would be the opportunity. I recalled from some of the stories I read earlier that day that so much can change for the good in just one moment, and when you least expect it, you have a chance to reach out to someone else. So I grabbed it.
I made an unexpected right turn to follow her. Even as I pulled up next to her, I felt strange doing something so completely unplanned and something that was perhaps, by her, unwanted.
She stopped and turned to look as I came near, squinting, unsure, until she recognized me, smiled and said hello. I offered her a ride and she at first declined, it seemed more in an attempt to avoid being a burden. What she didn't know is that I wanted to do this, to take my mind off of what burdened me. I guess I needed to give her a ride as much or more than she actually needed one!
When she accepted, I felt grateful that she did. We chit-chatted on the way to her house, and I offered her rides whenever she needed them in the future, knowing she no longer had use of a car.
She smiled, looking slightly surprised and appreciative of the offer. As I did this, I remember feeling that this shouldn't feel so strange -- reaching out to someone you otherwise don't really see or talk to -- and I was glad to be exercising this kindness "muscle." I realized that it's much easier helping others when directly asked and takes real effort to help unasked, to grab that moment before it passes. It would have been much "easier" to just keep driving that day and go about my business...
I'm glad I didn't.
I wonder if she realized how much she was helping me by letting me be of service. A simple ride home was much more than that for me. She thanked me for the ride when she stepped out of my car and wished me a good day. But in my mind, she was the one who needed to be thanked.
Who knows if I'll ever be in a position to give her a ride again, but how nice it was to simply open that door, literally, and just let someone know that I care. And how very odd that when you set your mind to helping, within minutes...the opportunity "presents" itself. What a gift.