It was late in the evening on a perfectly pleasant day. Mary and I had both been involved in physical therapy at the same place and as we departed I decided it was too late for Mary to go home and cook dinner and I wouldn’t know how to cook dinner, no matter what time it was. Thinking about how much pain I was in from the therapy and how Mary surely felt as badly I did I suggested we just get carry-out from a restaurant in Olney. I dropped Mary off at the door to go in and place our order and I pulled into a parking space to wait for her return.
After a few minutes I couldn’t help but notice a woman standing on the sidewalk outside of the restaurant. She was on a cell phone and even from 30 yards away I could see her making angry gestures with her arms and hands shouting into the phone. She having was clearly engaged an angry conversation. I looked away but after a few minutes I looked back over and there she was, still angry, still shouting into the phone and pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth arms flailing. She couldn’t tell I was sitting in my car watching her. I felt sheepish for watching this poor woman and began wondering what could be possibly be the source of her anger and pain. I felt badly for her. It was like passing by a train wreck or a house on fire or some emergency that surely meant pain and anguish for someone and not wanting to slow down and look, but doing so anyway.
The angry woman with so much pain and hurt obviously transpiring in her phone conversation continued pacing, continued accentuated gestures and continued showing her frustration for a long time. I watched and I wondered what was so wrong in her life…a bad day at the office getting worse?, a teenager out of control?, a husband causing pain and distress in her life? I watched; I wondered; I closed my eyes and made a silent prayer for this poor lady.
What can we say when someone is in distress before us? How do we go about showing care to our friends when they are in a bad place? Is it ever appropriate to stop and say “any way I can help? or do we just look the other way and act as if someone else’s pain isn’t any of our business? In this case her pain certainly wasn’t any of my business but that didn’t stop me from wondering what going in this woman’s life and feeling her pain as she paced back and forth. No answers, just questions. We should care about each other. We should see other people and notice when they are in pain or distress. We should take the time to be compassionate, caring, helping, where ever and whenever appropriate.
The lady eventually hung up and went in to eat her dinner. I wonder how it tasted? O God, give me eyes with which to see and a heart with which to care and the soul with which to bow my head and pray for strangers.
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)