Photo: Ed Yourdon
My midday walk during my lunch break from work started like normal. Because I’ve walked the same course for three years, with a few alterations here and there depending on the day, I’ve added reading into that time. I know, it’s not the best idea to have my head down reading my Kindle while walking along a road. I have to guard against getting so involved in the story that I fail to hear or see the vehicles around me.
I looked up from my book on this particular day and noticed a woman wearing a hijab head covering about a block away, heading my direction. I went back to the novel, mindful of her, and determined to stop reading as we met so I could acknowledge her.
As I passed a bus stop and we drew closer to each other, the gray clouds overhead started gently dropping their contents, adding to the humidity in the air. I looked the woman in the eye and said hi. She beamed a bright smile and returned the hi. And then she asked if she could use my phone to call her husband.
I hesitated. A phone is a very personal item these days. But I also tried to put myself in her shoes. She had to be sweating under all of that clothing, and she had to humble herself to ask me, knowing I could say no. I didn’t believe she wanted to harm me in any way. What if she had just missed the bus and wasn’t going to be able to meet her husband like they had planned?
The Right Place at the Right Time
The story of the good Samaritan came to mind. When he saw another person in need, instead of avoiding the person because of a culture clash, he reached out and met the need. Maybe I was in this place at this time for this very reason. Maybe someone else wouldn’t have helped the woman.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and she rattled off the number for me to punch in. That alone gave me comfort. It sent a clear message she had no intention of touching anything on my phone.
I entered the numbers and handed the device to her, standing aside. As she spoke in a different language to the recipient on the other end, possible scenarios played through my head. She could simply talk to her husband and return the phone. She could take the phone and run. I could run after her. She could throw the phone and damage it. I decided even if she hurt or stole my phone, I’d be OK. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.
After the woman ended her call, she graciously handed the phone back to me, thanked me with that same big smile, and went on her way. And that was it.
I don’t know who received more of a blessing from that encounter: her or me. Her smile brightened my day. I hope my reluctant generosity brightened hers.
I’m thankful I was in the right place at the right time to be able to help her. But I’m more grateful for what I learned through our confrontation: that sometimes it’s good just to trust people and give them the benefit of the doubt. And I always reap benefits when I’m generous, regardless of the other person’s motives.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"