Isn’t it interesting how caught up we become in our own lives thinking we are the only ones suffering from trials and challenges. Our focus is solely on our own pain and suffering with the repeated thoughts of “why did this happen” and “how am I going to get through it.” We look at other’s lives seeing reflections of happiness and good fortune and wonder why it has passed by our doorstep so many times. Then without notice we connect with another individual and find out the pains of life have not just favored us but are actually no respecter of persons having knocked on the doors of countless others.
One Saturday I went on a shopping trip with my daughters Natalie and Ivy and their two young girls. This was a special trip as my granddaughter Meredith was celebrating her sixth birthday by having her ears pierced. Upon arriving at the mall we headed for an accessories store that not only pierces ears but carries a variety of cute jewelry for little girls. There we found a young woman at the counter who kindly assisted us and began taking my granddaughter through the process of choosing a pair of earrings as her mother Natalie reviewed and signed a medical release form. The sales clerk had beautiful long hair that was golden blonde on top and dark brown underneath producing quite the dramatic fashion statement. Her warm brown eyes were accentuated by the most vivid color of green eye shadow I have ever seen. She wore a shiny satin emerald green jacket that may have seemed a little over the top for some, but to me the vibrant colors were a reflection of her personality and spirit.
As the clerk prepared to pierce Meredith’s ears she asked my daughter Natalie if she and Ivy were sisters, to which of course Natalie answered yes. She smiled and began to comment on how similar in personality and presence she and her sister were to my two daughters. She was bold in style and personality like Ivy and in contrast her sister was more classic and reserved like Natalie. The clerk was so genuine and friendly in her manner and comments that I immediately began to feel a connection with her. It appeared to me that she did not have a worry or concern in the world and for a quick moment I found myself thinking “Oh, to be young and carefree like her.”
The ear piercing process took only minutes and when it was over Meredith proudly stepped down from the stool she was sitting on. The clerk gave her some well deserved praise for being an extremely “brave little girl” making my granddaughter smile ear to ear. My daughter decided to continue browsing before checking out so I carried the two items I had chosen up to the counter to purchase. There the young clerk met me to begin the check out process and since no other customers were in line, we had a quick moment to ourselves to chat. She asked me if I was the mother of Natalie and Ivy which with great pride I answered yes. I explained to her that my other daughter recently moved to another state and therefore was unable to join us on this all girl’s shopping trip. She proceeded to tell me she had two sisters and therefore also had three girls in her family. I could tell she was very proud of her sisters and had a close relationship with them. “That’s wonderful!” I responded enthusiastically.
“But”, she continued as she unlocked the cash register. “I lost my youngest sister, she died.”
My heart sank at her statement and I wondered why she was sharing something rather personal and sensitive with a complete stranger. “I am so sorry for your loss, how long has it been?” I asked cautiously not wanting to be too personal.
“Three years ago in a car accident”, she answered while entering my purchase in the register. Again my heart felt heavy and suddenly I found myself wanting to reach across the counter and give her a big motherly hug.
She continued, “I never thought at seventeen years old that I would have to face the death of my thirteen year old sister.” Her words struck a familiar chord as I felt her pain and loss of a loved one.
“You know”, I started, “my daughters lost their father to a brain tumor when they were very young. I can understand some of what you are feeling and though the pain never goes away it does…”
“Get easier.” she said finishing my statement. She knew. She absolutely knew and understood exactly what I was talking about. “It does get easier to deal with.” she reaffirmed.
“You know what really helped me?” I started. “I believe there is life after death and that we will be reunited again as a family.”
With a beautiful smile and a sweet spirit radiating from behind those warm brown eyes, she looked at me and tenderly stated, “Me too, I know that I will be able to see my sister again and I can’t wait.”
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. She thanked me for my purchase and as I slowly walked out of the store I realized this young woman with a sensitive spirit and maturity beyond her twenty years of age, learned early in life that trials were going to be a part of her journey. She was a survivor and learned to embrace a hope and faith that provided the strength and endurance necessary to move forward.
As I begin looking around the mall I saw people of all walks of life and thought how each one has a story to tell, each one has experienced painful trials and challenges, and each one has learned something from those events. Yes, some were victorious in overcoming the pain and anguish and others felt defeated continuing to carry with them the burden of it all. But that one Saturday, I met someone who was victorious and reminded me that even though we all get tossed to and fro during life’s storms, we can choose to overcome and continue on our path with peace of mind. There are many others out there like you and I, our neighbor, our co-worker, the stranger passing by us on the street and yes, even the young clerk at the accessories store. Each has a story with a lesson to share and if you will take a moment to look deep into their eyes you will see yet another child of a loving God. We are all doing the best we can to successfully maneuver through this mortal life. The young woman in the accessories store will never know how that three-minute conversation affected me. But one thing is certain, I am very grateful she shared not only her pain with me but her ability to move through it with a victorious spirit. How thankful I am that on that special girl’s day out I took the time to listen and learn from another.
Have you taken the time to listen and learn from another?