This old post has come to mind on several occasions over the last few months. I originally wrote it in 2013. The online magazine that first ran it no longer exists. I wanted to bring the story back to life. The lesson learned is that important.
This missed opportunity to love is a reminder to me and to you. We are all qualified to extend compassion. We don’t need to wait until we are wiser, feel more equipped, or in a better season of life. Compassion can start with us, today…right where we are.
The metro ride home was packed, like it usually was for a weeknight commute out of DC and back to Northern VA. I snagged a seat for the trip back home, even though “home” was nothing like I envisioned it two years earlier when I said I do.
I glanced around at all the tired faces. No one seemed happy; they just looked like they were going through the motions.
I wondered if they felt as lost and far away from their desired destination as I did.
My eyes lingered for a bit on the lady sitting at the front of the metro, up against the wall of the train. I watched as she tried to console the crying baby in her lap. She rocked him cheek to cheek. I could tell there was something different about the tired I saw on her face. It was more than just exhaustion from another day of going through the motions…it was pain, it was ache.
And then, in the midst of all these people sitting and staring her direction, I sat and watched as tears fell uncontrollably down her cheeks. I watched this lady reach her breaking point. She silently cried. She silently rocked.
Go to her, a voice came from somewhere inside of me, something inexplicable coaxing me to get up out of my seat and speak to the woman.
But then reason kicked in.
“What would she think?” It said. “I don’t have kids. I have nothing to offer her.”
Still, the thought came again, apparently not listening to reason and logic. Get up from your seat. Go to her, it said.
I talked myself out of it.
“I’m a twenty something kid myself. My life is a mess. What would I say?”
Go to her, now, said the voice from inside.
The argument between Fear and Love played tug of war with my heart.
Moments later, a lady from the back of the car came rushing by me and knelt down next to the lady. She wrapped her arm around the crying stranger and whispered five simple words, over and over again.
It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the scene play out. I cried over the beauty of a stranger coming alongside pain. I cried over the lady who’s dam just couldn’t hold back all the hurt anymore.
I cried over my fear and doubt, fear that paralyzed me and doubt that told me I had nothing to offer this lady.
It’s been nearly 20 years since that moment on the metro, but I still remember.
I still remember and regret my decision to stay in my seat and do nothing but be a spectator, to ignore the opportunity to act out love. That moment in time, that missed opportunity, still haunts me.
I should have had feet of courage that carried me over to the lady.
I should have had hands of compassion that were willing to wrap themselves around another person.
These days, I do everything I can to notice and seize these opportunities, not because I can “fix” the pain or because I have all the answers, but simply because I know how they feel. I know there is something powerful about saying to someone who is hurting, I see you. I am here for you. You’re going to be okay.