The other night I saw her as she walked by the truck. Pretty woman, mid-to late 20s perhaps wearing sunglasses that almost covered her entire face.
She clutched a piece of paper as she covered the most precious part of her body, walking in a way that sent a chill down my spine. I knew that walk. All too well. I felt her pain. Her fear. Her distress. Her hopelessness. Her sense of loss.
I watched her cross the street and wondered if I was overreacting. Maybe she was drunk or high. Maybe she was sad and wanted to be alone. Maybe it was a set up and anyone who approached her would find themselves jumped by others lurking in the shadows (I’m embarrassed to say that the thought flashed through my head).
So I waited and watched just to make sure she made it across the street, but each step she took sent a flood of emotions through me. I watched cars speed by her, pedestrians glance judgmentally at her—and no one stopped. She was someone’s daughter, sister, maybe even mother. She could’ve been you. She could’ve been me.
“I’m scared. Can’t trust anyone. I hurt.” Tears slid down her cheeks from under her sunglasses, her only form of safety as she unsuccessfully hid her pain. Desperately she held onto the cement wall bordering the path down to the ferry. She could barely stand upright. She was shivering and sweating. She had a huge bump forming on her forehead.
I asked her if I could help. Her words were as broken as she was. “No hospital. Not going back. I’m scared. Can’t trust anyone. I’m all alone.” My heart went out to her—being all too familiar with her state of mind. I didn’t know what to tell her other than,” It’s okay not to trust anyone right now. Just trust yourself.”
We talked for an hour until she decided on her own to go to the emergency room. The rest of the conversation is her story to tell and I hope one day she’s brave enough to share it with others. Because she is not alone. Her story, like many of ours, reflects life’s battle wounds—some so hardened and scarred and some still bleeding, waiting to heal.
Since that night I’ve thought a lot about how things truly do happen for a reason. Had I not stopped she probably would’ve been okay. But I’m glad I did. Because as embarrassing as it is to say, years ago I would’ve been one of the cars or the pedestrians who just passed by her without a thought. I would’ve justified my indifference with my judgments.
How often have we looked at another woman and judged her based on her attire, age, style or habits? How often have we looked at another human and judged them based on a glimpse after meeting them, hearing things about them, reading something or any tidbit that sparks an interest without knowing (many times not caring to know) the whole story?
We are all guilty of this to a certain extent and in my opinion, initial gut instincts, impressions and yes, some judgments are what protect us from damaging situations. However, I’m learning that these things are a guide and not necessarily the gospel.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. There are no such things as coincidences. People come in and out of our lives. Some stay for long-term. They are here. Just like you. Just like me.
Looking beyond the surface of another can take work as you loosen preconceived standards and appreciate what’s truly in front of you. But it’s worth it. We are all worth a little time and effort, even it’s only for a moment. So challenge yourself and look beyond those preconceived notions. You may just discover that by reaching out beyond your comfort zone of labels, assumptions and pre-judgments of others, that they reached a part of you as well.
I pray that all worked out for this young woman. Her strength is an inspiration and a lesson to me that sometimes it just takes reaching out and a word of reassurance to help you find your way back onto a clear path.
Author: Jennifer Evangelista
Image: YouTube still
Editor: Travis May