*Permission has been granted to use her authentic name
I was not surprised when a dear friend of mine said she was going to take lunch to someone she had never met. She was always reaching outside her circle of friends and family to make connections with people that most of us never think about, as in this case, a stranger going through the torment and anguish called cancer.
Upon moving to our neighborhood recently, Claudia*, discovered she had breast cancer. She recently had a double Mastectomy and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. My friend said there was a meal sign up for Claudia via the Internet.
I admired the fact that although she did not know this woman, my friend reacted to this woman’s plight as she would her sister or friend going through a tremendously difficult time.
Before I became Hands Free, I might have convinced myself that I already had a full plate with several other community obligations I was doing or that I had just taken a meal to my friend in need. But now things are different. Thank God, now things are different.
A woman needed my love and support. A woman needed comfort food to meet the needs of her tired body. A woman needed to know that she was not alone. I wanted to be a part of that. I knew this is exactly what I am referring to when my new life mission is to grasp what really matters.
A few days later, I stood on her porch with my freshly baked banana muffins and frosted cupcakes to supplement the soup my friend was bringing. A delicately beautiful woman opened the door. Her bent frame and short hair revealed the trauma she had endured. Suddenly the baked goods that I held in my hands seemed grossly inadequate.
“Rachel?” she asked, as her face broke into a smile that instantly lifted her entire posture upward.
I smiled back and handed her the food. In one graceful move, she set it down and reached out her arms. We embraced tightly and held on, just as you would hug a life-long friend that you hadn’t seen in years. As we held each other, I closed my eyes and willed every ounce of strength in my body to be soaked into her fragile bones and tattered spirit.
We slowly separated, and I began to speak. Even as the words came out of my lips, I did not know what they would be, but I knew I had been brought there as a messenger. I looked into her tearful eyes and spoke with conviction, for she needed to know these words were truth, “I hope you can feel all the love that surrounds you. We all love you, and we are praying for you.”
Soft tears slid down her fragile cheeks as we embraced again. I swear her arms were stronger, more sure, more hopeful than a moment before.
As we said our goodbyes, I provided my contact information and we exchanged small details about our children in the hope of someday getting them together.
As I walked down the steps to my car, I turned to wave good-bye. There she stood, this woman so resilient, so grateful, so brave, so alive, still smiling as she closed the door.
I had come there with muffins, a jeweled cross, and words of hope thinking I could provide a lightness in the heaviness of her day. Yet, I felt the sudden need to say thank you. And so I did. I called out a grateful “thank you” to Claudia and to the heavens just before my voice failed me and tears spilled from my eyes. For I had come there to be her angel, but she so powerfully and so unforgettably had become mine.
When is the last time you displayed an act of kindness for someone you did not know? Do it today and expect nothing in return. Sometimes those acts are the life-changing ones.