11 April 2004

An Easter Epiphany

I'm not a deeply religious person. Sure, I was raised in the Catholic faith, but as I got older, the trips to that old structure on Washington Street became less and less frequent. Maybe it was due to the rigors of growing up in a single-parent home, and our busy lives began to drift from the Sunday visits.

For whatever reason, just because I don't attending sans the C & E's (which have also become few and far between), it doesn't mean that most of the teaching we find in our denomination make up the structure and foundation of the way I live my life.

The reason for this preface is to tell you a story that happened last night on Easter Weekend Saturday:


I was pulling into the apartment complex around 8:30 last night when I was confronted by a slow moving car, and when I say slow, I'm talkin a snail lapped this machine.
As I waited for the car to pass so I could turn left behind it, I noticed it was a taxi, obviously lost in the maze I call my neighborhood.
Thinking nothing more of it, I continued home, but something was different. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed a woman with a suitcase standing by the visitor parking island in front of my house. Just then it hit me; that cab was looking for her. So I jumped out and began walking and calling to her. It wasn't until I got within 2 feet of her that she finally acknowledged me. She was a middle-aged (probably in her 50s), dressed in a cardigan and jeans with a lone suitcase.
I asked if she was waiting for a cab. She nodded. I then told her I had passed a taxi coming home and it looked lost. At that moment, I saw the cab pull by at the complex entrance about 300 feet from us. She asked if I could flag it down for her, so I took off in a dead sprint. As I neared the cab, it began its U-turn, apparently giving up the search for this customer.
Dejected, I jogged back to the lady and told her that I would jump back into my truck and see if I could catch up with the cab again.
As I began walking to my truck, I saw her face melt in her eyes and she began sobbing. At this moment, I knew that probably everything in this woman's life recently had let her down, and I wasn't about to be the next.

After looking for the cab (to no avail), I returned home and pulled up beside her. Rolling down my window, I expressed no luck in finding the elusive cabbie. She began to break down again. Quickly, I asked if I could take her anywhere. She looked up and choked out that she needed to get to the bus station.
"No problem," I told her. So I jumped out, grabbed her suitcase and helped her to the passenger side.
Keep in mind that I have never seen this woman before in my life, and the same can be said of her.
For those who don't know me, I'm 6'5" and 280 pounds. Not exactly a docile air to my appearance.
Needless to say I wasn't surprised that she was apprehensive, but I convinced her that I was just as scared about the situation. Reluctant but thankful, she stepped into the vehicle.
The Greyhound station is about 15 minutes from our home, so as we strapped in and began our trek, I asked her name.
She said simply, "I'm Laura".
I then asked her why she was so upset, and if she wanted to talk about it. Reluctantly, she began to tell me about how she and her husband had just moved into the complex yesterday, from a small town in Georgia. Apparently, this was a normal thing to the two of them. Laura said that they have lived all over the place, with her husband getting jobs around town to make money, while she tending to the house.
It seemed to me that they had been married for about 18 years, but both had children with other partners. It seems that she had seen the move as a new beginning for the two of them, a chance to start over in a new city.
Unfortunately, the problems of the past didn't stay away for long. She told me that he hit her all the time, and the domestic violence stems back to the first years of their marriage. As much as I hated it, I could see it coming.

You know the feeling that you want something so badly to not be the truth, and it turns against you? This was one of those moments.

After last night's latest drunken fight, she told him that this was the last time he was going to lay a hand on her.
(Even now, as much as I hope that is true, I don't think it will happen.)
As her husband lay on the bed passed out, she quietly packed a suitcase and left her new home. She told me she then asked for help from a policeman who lives a few doors down from us. He asked her if she wanted to press charges. She told him that she couldn't, that it wouldn't do him or her any good. The policeman then offered to call her a cab, which she accepted.
That's where I came into the story.
As we neared the bus station, she began to pull herself together. She told me she was planning on taking the bus to Mississippi, but she had no one that knew she was coming. This is when I realized what a decision this woman has taken.
I continued to tell her that based on what I had heard, she was making the right decision. I think she's starting to believe me.
After we arrived at the Greyhound Station on 818 Veterans Parkway, I jumped out of the truck and grabbed her suitcase from the back. Laura joined me and thanked me again for taking her to the station. It was then as we headed for the entrance that something amazing happened.

She grabbed my hand.

Here I was, returning home for seeing Kirsten only 30 minutes previous, and now I was helping someone change their life. Here we were only 10 minutes ago, she was apprehensive to even tell me her name, let alone accept a ride from me. With one single, beautiful gesture, she rekindled my faith in the power of the human spirit, the ability each and every one of us has within ourselves to touch someone else's life.
As we entered the bus station, after talking to the ticket office, Laura told me that she was fine and she would be alright. She then gave me a hug and thanked me for being so sweet. It was then that I left the building and walked back to my truck. Nothing could wash away the look on my face.


On the trip to the bus station, Laura asked me (on several occasions) why I was doing this. To me, the answer was simple:

"I have a mother and father. I have a brother. I have a girlfriend. I have many people in my life that mean the world to me. If anyone of them were in your situation, I can only hope and pray that somebody, anybody would be there to help them out in that time of need. That's all I can ask for, therefore that all I can do for someone else."

The Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have done to you".

Of all the things I have learned and followed in life, this one sits at the summit.

I truly hope that I never see Laura again. That way, I know there's a good chance she has followed through with leaving her husband behind. That's a lot to ask, and unfortunately, I don't think it will be true.
As I left her at the bus station, she continued to thank me for my help. What she doesn't realize is she helped me as well.

Too often in life, we're confronted with the negatives of human interaction: the lying, back-stabbing, self-righteousness, prejudice and inequalities in the world.

With one small gesture and a trusting heart, Laura reconfirmed everything that's great about life.

I just hope good things for people like Laura. She deserves only the best in life.

Godspeed in her journey.
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