While in Vancouver a few weeks ago I had an opportunity present itself that caused a decision to be made: act or ignore.
I was waiting at a Tim Hortons for my niece to come for a visit. I had gotten there a bit early and grabbed our lunch. While I was waiting I noticed a lady probably in her early 50's, sitting quietly at her table. I suspected that whomever she was with was grabbing the food and would come along shortly.
As the time continued, no one came. I love to people watch, so I started to watch her. I mean, of course, I did it discretely. I noticed that she had sat herself at a little table where the top of the wall was taller than she, so no one from the counter could see her, unless someone came around to wipe down the tables, the staff would not notice she was there.
It was a warm summer day and she was dressed with a little jacket, the morning could have been chilly when she started out, so nothing seemed abnormal, until I spied her footwear, tall warm winter boots, the fuzzy kind. Not really suitable for the days weather. As I pondered her, I started to wonder if she was homeless and was seeking a safe place. I could find "no evidence" besides the boots and the fact there seemed to be no purse, but not everyone carries one.
She sat very still, with almost a serene look on her face as if she was waiting for someone and then I noticed her head would nod down as she dozed off momentarily and then she would snap back awake.
When my niece came, who is a nurse, I told her that I was not sure if the lady was okay. My beautiful niece walked over and sat down, introduced herself and told her she was a nurse and that we were just checking to make sure she was okay.
She was amazed that someone would care and thanked us very much all the while saying she was fine. My niece came back and told me that this lady was more than likely on heroin especially with the nodding off.
My heart felt so sad for her, she was not young, but obviously alone. I wondered what her story was.
My niece and I had a marvelous visit together and then she left to go back to work.
I realized I had been at the coffee shop for 2.5 hours and that lady had not moved spots or even basically positions. No one had come to see her, no one stopped to talk to her. She was almost invisible right there out in the open.
In a world of 7.5 billion people how many remain invisible? We just do not see them.
As I gathered my things I stopped at the lady's table and sat down. I told her that I had been there a long time and noticed that she had had nothing to eat or drink. I asked if I might give her some money to buy some food. She reacted almost wildly to the thought. So I then asked if I might buy her some food. She took more to this idea but still refused. It took some convincing but she agreed to a bowl of chilli.
I went to the order line.
I felt a hand on my arm as she appeared at my side.
"I feel so uncomfortable," she said. She continued on that she had not always been like this and it was just a matter of time until things got better. I could only nod, she was obviously embarrassed.
I told her that I did not want her to feel uncomfortable, it was certainly not my intention. She nodded but still looked afraid.
An idea came to me, " I believe God told me to buy you some food."
She took a step back to study me and think for a moment and then said, "May I have a coffee as well?"
"Of course," was my quick reply.
She returned to her little table.
When I carried the food over she could not stop thanking me.
I leaned down and said, " I truly believe God sent me here today to buy you this meal, remember He really loves you."
To which she grinned and started to eat her food, she seemed to understand or accept that.
I walked out with tears of gratefulness that I had had the privilege of blessing that lady. It only took $5.00.
I was blessed much more than she.
What if I had ignored the prompting? I would have missed my blessing, her blessing and a huge opportunity of helping someone who felt invisible be noticed.
It took me back to the random act of kindness for my mom, from whomever called for help when she was lost and wandering the streets in Vancouver back in August.
Learning to listen to those little inside promptings, those inside nudges, we may never know the outcome but we just might change someone's life for an hour, a day or even longer.
Let's learn to tune in!