“I Think They Were Meant For You”

rosesongrass

Recently, upon learning of a Twilight Zone-like encounter of mine with a homeless person at a local Chick-fil-A restaurant, my daughter commented, “The most amazing things always seem to happen to you on your walks!” I smiled, preferring instead to think of it this way: I sometimes happen upon things on my walk with an open heart and then the universe intervenes to show me their “amazingness”.

Yesterday was one of those times. For no particular reason (or so I thought at the time), I decided to take a slightly different route back to the apartment on my usual early Saturday morning walk. As I rounded the corner, I saw 6 beautiful, long-stemmed red roses still wrapped in plastic lying intact in the grass near the side of the road. I could only surmise that someone had purchased them the night before, likely to surprise a special friend or mark a special occasion, but at the last minute lost their courage or decided the time just wasn’t right and tossed them out the window of their car instead.

“What a shame,” I thought to myself, imagining how different the intended recipient’s night might have been had they actually been delivered.  That’s when it occurred to me.  Spotting a woman walking towards me with her dog on the opposite side of the road, I bent down, picked up the bouquet of flowers and crossed the street. As she got a little closer, I said excitedly, “I just found these roses in the grass. I think there’s still life in them – and I think they were meant for you.” I wish the whole world could have seen the smile that broke like a sunrise across her “here I was thinking-this-was-gonna-be-just-another-mundane-Saturday-morning-dog-walk” face!

“I guess I was right. They were meant for her,” I concluded as I continued on my way, slightly taken aback by the warmth of her smile and the depth of her gratitude. But it was the woman who I imagined hadn’t received them the night before – her and the countless number of others like her – that flooded into my heart as I headed for home.

I thought of all the 6 year-old ballerinas, musicians and choralists who diligently keep working on their craft, recital after recital, all the while knowing that the empty seat in the auditorium will never be filled and that when the performances are over they’ll be relegated to the role of spectator as all their friends receive bouquets from their doting dads.

I thought of all the middle school actresses, athletes, writers and students who know that no matter how great their onstage, on field, on paper or in class performances are, none will be acknowledged with even a “job well done” from the man who matters most, let alone something as beautiful and thoughtful as a bouquet of their favorite-colored roses.

I thought of all the self-conscious high schoolers struggling to come to grips with self-doubt, the transition into womanhood, feelings of where they fit in or, more likely, of being left out, who would give anything to be seen and appreciated simply for who they are – and be over the moon if a special someone honored them with even a single rose.

I thought of all the seemingly secure and independent, but silently sensitive collegians trying to navigate a complex and fear-filled new environment far from home, longing for a sign that they belong, that they are welcomed, that someone cares – or that they are remembered and still loved by those they left behind – a bud of hope.

I thought of all the young and not so young women who feel trapped in broken or abusive relationships and those in no relationship at all, and the soothing balm that a gift of flowers might offer their hearts and souls – hearts ravaged by hurtful words or loneliness, souls left questioning their worthiness, loveliness and loveability.

I thought of all the women who continue to seek their truth in a mirrored reflection and how different they and their lives might appear if they were afforded the chance to search for it instead in the reflection pool of a beautiful bouquet of roses offered by a complete stranger for no particular reason other than that they’re alive – and that someone noticed.

Maybe you once were that someone or maybe you’re her today. If so, there’s something I need you to know – several things actually:

The fact that you may not have received flowers (or all they have come to represent) when you needed them most or didn’t receive them at all doesn’t mean you weren’t worthy or deserving of them.  You were and you are! It also doesn’t mean that you were or are any less than those who did. You weren’t and you aren’t.  If you’d been on the sidewalk with me yesterday, you would’ve realized that.  But since you weren’t, these (and the song that follows them) will have to do – at least for now!

rosesongrass

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Photo Used with permission: D 32854678 © Aliaksei Smalenski | Dreamstime.com

The Need To Be Noticed

weeds

“Let us remember: We’re all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.” Rachel Macy Stafford

It’s not often I get out for a Saturday morning walk before the break of dawn anymore. But, today I did – and I’m glad. Because no sooner had I crossed the street that leads from the entrance to our apartment building to my walk route than I came across a small calico kitten lying in the dew-stained grass of a large field near the sidewalk. She was shivering cold, scared to death and alone. My initial instinct was to scoop her up and take her home with me and I actually would’ve if I could’ve, but I’m allergic to cats, so I did what, in the moment, seemed like the next best thing. Despite knowing that it likely would mean spending the remainder of my 6 mile journey sniffling and sneezing, I stopped, bent down as softly and as slowly as I could so as not to scare her away and gently began to brush the tiny droplets of moisture left behind by a long night spent in the weeds off her back. As the trust between us grew, I moved my hand to the side of her face and began to stroke it for a few minutes, all the while staring in her eyes. By the time I stood up to continue on my walk, I could’ve sworn I saw her smile – not because I’d “rescued” her, but because I’d noticed her, taken a moment to care – offered a tiny seed of hope that today might be a little different, a little kinder than yesterday.

As I walked away, it occurred to me that there are lots of “little kittens” like my new friend walking around on two feet in this world. Some are doing their level best to hide in the weeds, while others are sharing our church pew on Sunday, our lunch room at work, our classroom at school, our Social Media networks – even our dining room table at home – insisting they’re “fine”. Yesterday, one of them, a young South Florida lawyer with a two year-old son and a beautiful wife put a gun to his head and took his own life. I didn’t know the man, except through a mutual friend and I don’t pretend for a minute to have any understanding of the demons he was battling or how long he’d been fighting them. I’m also not naïve enough to believe for a minute that a few words of encouragement or affirmation would have made a meaningful difference, let alone led to a different outcome. But, maybe they could have helped if they’d come at the right time, been uttered by the right person, struck just the right chord or opened the door of hope just wide and long enough to allow his troubled soul to catch a glimpse of the possibility that tomorrow could be different – and maybe they will for someone like him, someone you may know or encounter as you walk through life.

I can’t help but think there is a lesson to be learned from this young man and this morning’s encounter with my precious little friend. Perhaps it is that all lives matter; that we’re all in this Life thing together; that loneliness and fear are real and far more prevalent and life-threatening than we realize; that we all have the capacity to be a little more attentive to each other; that sometimes we are called to look beyond polite assurances to family, friends and colleagues that someone is “fine” into eyes that on closer inspection plainly reveal a deeper, darker truth – and not ignore it when we see it; that we can’t afford to make assumptions about people based on how many FB friends or Twitter followers they have or how many smiling faces they post on Instagram; or that, contrary to what we may believe, all of us have the time to step outside of ourselves, to stop and offer an ear to listen, an open heart to empathize and open arms to offer a moment of comfort and reassurance. Sometimes that moment may be all it takes to reignite a pilot light of hope, give birth to a commitment to take a first step on the road to recovery or the next or inspire a willingness to finish out the day and give tomorrow a chance.

The little kitten wasn’t there when I made my way back to the apartment this morning. I’d like to think it’s because a friend came along and invited her to play or that she found her way home to her worried mother. In fact, I did think that – and this time the smile was mine!