being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
Just a woman at Panera
We happened to be at the entrance at practically the same time.
She wore all black, a sleeveless top, flowing black pants, and cute little wedges. Her designer sunglasses sat on top of her head. In her nose, a tiny diamond stud.
She didn’t look at all like the sort of woman who would be struggling with an infant in a car seat, but she was.
I remember all too well the awkwardness of those infant car seats, so I opened the door for her.
It must have been enough. Because in the few minutes it took for the three or four people ahead of us to order their food, I heard a very condensed version of her life story.
It started as an innocent conversation.
“Today would be a nice day to tan.”
“Hmmm. It is a nice day outside.”
“Oh, I never tan outside. . . ”
From tanning, to body image, to being too fat to wear her pre-pregnancy clothes, to her lousy husband who told her she needed to lose weight, to how she used to starve herself to be skinny, to how she knew she needed to exercise but hated to go to the gym because she was either judged by skinny young girls or hit on by creepy old guys, to how she wanted to be skinny again so her husband would stick around, to how she didn’t want to be divorced, but that he didn’t love her, but that she didn’t want to be divorced, to how awful he was too her, to how it’s gotten her down, to how she has depression, to how she’s not suicidal, but how she has depression and her mom has it and her brother has it . . .
I nodded and listened. Because she barely took a breath between sentences.
Her baby, smiled and cooed in the car seat. With beautiful, big, baby blue eyes.
The few words I was able to get in were, “You have to be healthy for you and not let anyone else tell you who you are or should be.”
Would you share all those things with a complete stranger while waiting in line at Panera? I know I wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure why she did.
I stood there a little uncomfortable, but more concerned. This woman needed something.
She needed someone to tell her that it was ok to be her. That she was important. That she mattered.
I can only hope that I conveyed that in the few minutes we shared.
Because as quickly as our conversation started, it ended when our food was delivered and she said, “Well, have a great day!”
And that was it.
She and her baby were gone.
I was left standing there, holding my Thai chopped chicken salad, wondering just what happened.
And I prayed. Because I didn’t know what else to do. I prayed for her situation. I prayed that she would know her value. I prayed for her baby.
She shared more in five minutes than most people will share in a lifetime. Maybe because she felt like she could tell a complete stranger. Maybe I looked like I wouldn’t judge. Maybe because I opened the door for her. Maybe she would have told anyone and I just happened to be the person who was there. I really don’t know.
I don’t know why. But she felt like she could tell me that. So she did. And I just listened.
I don’t know if I’ll see her again. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget her.