I just didn’t see her.
I think that, more than anything, is what’s been eating at me these past few weeks. Why else would the same forty-five seconds keep coming back to me in quiet moments when my brain is on slow idle, replaying itself in my head long after its own summer Saturday has passed?
I had just come out of Albertson’s with a bag full of potato chips and pecan sandies destined for a heavily laden table at the home of good friends. My mind was on the day of fun ahead—perfectly grilled burgers barely pink inside, water fights and boat rides, good conversation and golden kaleidoscope sparkles of reflected sunlight on the lake. We were running a little late, and as I waited in an archway next to the automatic sliding doors for Paul to circle around with the car and pick me up, the woman who huddled a few feet away from me against the bricks of the building barely registered on my conscious mind.
I didn’t notice her, in fact, until someone else did. Just behind me, an Albertson’s employee, a girl about my age, had come out to spend her well-earned break time in the late August sun. She had a drink in one hand, a sandwich in the other, and was just tucking into it when she looked past me and saw the woman sitting on the ground. In that moment, I saw her, too: middle-aged, weary, worn clothes, sad eyes—sitting next to a tattered bag that I somehow knew was a constant companion.
It only took a beat before the girl was squatting down next to the woman, asking her in gentle tones if she was hungry and holding out her sandwich, which was gratefully accepted. The kindness in her eyes was unmistakable, so naturally given that it was clear it was woven into her being like threads into a blanket. I was transfixed, openly staring, a captive witness to what seemed, in retrospect, a holy moment.
Too soon, I blinked, and my red car pulled up to whisk me away to another life, a comfortable, super-sized life where the availability of sandwiches is never in question.
But those forty-five seconds haven’t left me. It nags at me, the memory of my blindness. Not a cruel blindness, but a thoughtless one, and is that any better? How many opportunities have I missed to be His hands, His arms, His voice to someone He placed a few feet away?
It took a few weeks, but the moment that wouldn’t leave has finally made its imprint on me. Call it a moment of awakening. And now that I’m awake, I hope I’ll open my eyes and really see people, especially the ones who don’t fit into my barbecue plans and my (mostly) orderly life.