On a sweltering summer evening, the pavement emanated waves of heat on the sidewalk outside of my local corner market. I ran into the store, scattered and hurried, wanting to get home to cook dinner and realizing that I’d forgotten to pick up some milk.
A group of boys blocked the way to the cooler, huddled there conspiringly, laughing in the direction of the aisle behind them. I gingerly moved through them, glancing to see what had caused the commotion.
There, seemingly oblivious to the stares and laughter, stood a tiny old woman, her frazzled gray hair spewing out wildly from underneath a man’s bowler hat, her body covered from shoulders to knees with a gray tweed suit jacket. Her feet poked out from underneath the oversized jacket with the surprising pop of a pair of bright pink tennis shoes.
The corner of my mouth turned up gently when I saw those shoes, but then my heart twisted at the sound of mockery within the store. Suddenly my mind came to itself, jarred awake and fully aware of this precious little woman shuffling her way to the register, still showing no expression, probably used to the way people look at her every day.
I hurried to purchase my milk and hustled out the jangling door to see if the woman were still there. She sat on the bench in front, clutching her bag of groceries, looking so small and forlorn, her eyes flashing an acknowledgment of my presence, encouraging me to draw near.
I knew her invitation just as clearly as if she had spoken it aloud.
We sat in silence for a while, the scent of night-blooming jasmine swirling all around us, a lull in activity in the parking lot we faced, and I was grateful for the quiet of it. When she began to speak, I sat very still, willing myself to just let her words flow with no interference from me. She spoke of the greatest love of her life, a gift from God.
She was there with him as they met and married, and bore his children joyfully. She was there as he worked in a career that he loved, their children had children, retirement brought them freedom to travel, and love remained a cord between them through it all, strong and true, laughter coming from every corner of their home.
How he loved to don his coat and hat, walking to the market every evening, past the ducks splashing in the pond, and past little boys waving their fishing poles with hopes of huge fish swimming through their imaginations.
Finally, she was there through a difficult winter, and even more difficult news. There were nurses, hospice care, and a funeral, all of their children and friends gathered around, daisies covering everything, just as he would have wanted.
She knows how she looks in his hat and oversized jacket. She hears what people whisper or even dare to say out loud. But to her she is still setting aside a special part of every day to honor the memory of the one she loved and continues to love, their bond surpassing even death itself.
Her love is so genuine and sure that it elicits her response to the world, far above the realm of what others are thinking.
I am reminded that love in my own heart is just a wonderful thought until I express it outwardly, and then it becomes its fullest in the sharing of it, even if misunderstood. This is exactly the way that God loves you and me, and even He was willing to be misunderstood, a fact I am so grateful for.
This little woman taught me, once again, to open my eyes and my heart, and to take the time really take a second look at the people I come across each day. We all have a story driving the costumes that we wear, the places that we go, the choices we make about way that we live our lives. We are simply souls doing our best to make our way home.
May we let our love and understanding help light the way home.
Related: Wear this beautiful necklace from Village Artisan and help write a story of hope of dignity for women in Northern India.Leave a Comment
O how the tears welled up in my eyes as I read this beautiful story. I had to ask God to forgive me for being jealous of this woman having never experienced the kind of love that she felt for her beloved husband. She wore his clothes to keep him close to her each and every day regardless of how others saw her. God loves us no matter what we look like on the outside and I am eternally grateful for that. Thank you for sharing Sharyn.
Sharyn Fields says
Paulette, thank you very much for your beautiful message to me. I have to admit that I’ve never experienced that kind of love, either, at least not within a marriage. And so I relate with your feelings about it. This year I have been working on celebrating love wherever I see it, even though I’ve wished I had it myself, even though I may feel a bit jealous. And I find that being happy for others makes me feel much better, plus I also believe it puts me in a better position to know if when I see it in my own relationships. Have a love-filled day! 🙂
Oh my goodness. This post. Wow. Just made me think of how many people I must overlook on a daily basis. Either because of my “busyness,” or because I make a judgment about them based on how they look/talk/smell etc. I have a son who has Down Syndrome. I am used to “the looks.” And it makes me mad/frustrated/upset when I see him look at people in their eyes and smile, or comment, and they look away. I think to myself, “is it really that hard to just say, “HI?” Good grief. And I think, “wow…if they only knew how special he really is, they would be lining up to talk to him and be his friend.” But isn’t it just like God to gently remind me of the ways I probably do this same thing to others…like the lady in your story. Thank you so much for sharing.
Sharyn Fields says
Marty, we have all walked past someone precious and not given them the acknowledgement that they deserve. Your sweet comment reminds me to keep looking for ways to give dignity to all I come into contact with, and also to remember to not be so busy that I fail to acknowledge the presence of dear souls around me. Thank you for taking the time to share with me today.
Beth Williams says
Prayers for you and your family for strength and courage as you raise your precious son! To many people are prejudiced about others. I wish that weren’t true! I try to smile and say hi no matter what!
May God bless you as you travel this journey!
Beth Williams says
Such a thoughtful post! I love how this woman displayed her love of her husband daily no matter the consequences. Exactly like God!! He loved us soo so much that no matter what we do or how we act He will still come longing for us! We must learn not to judge others and to never overlook anyone. For me that means saying thank you to cashers, acknowledging others, saying hello to people and sometimes just smiling at them. Letting them know they matter!
Sharyn Fields says
Beth, thank you for this. I like your suggestions for bringing love with you into the mundane and “normal” tasks of the day. I know when I’ve gone through some very hard times that the simple kindnesses of people that I didn’t know were even sweeter to me. 🙂