Chuck and I just got back from Newport Beach, California, where we spent the last 4 days. He had business during the day, and I got to have play dates with my friend Debbie. I will write a post about this trip next but today I want to get down in text....before I forget....about 3 strangers. While, of course, I met a lot of strangers in the last 4 days of traveling, there are 3 that stand out.
The first stranger ...
On the 3 hour flight there, I had to go to the restroom. I really needed to go because I had had 2 water bottles and a Bloody Mary. I say this because I hate to go to the restroom on a plane. For many reasons...but all you need to know is I hate it. And my bladder was beyond full. So I climb over Chuck and the lady next to him to go get in line. There were 2 men in front of me, so I was a few rows back in my "wait." I was in the tiny aisle leaning against an empty seat. Next to the empty seat was a little girl (about 4) with her father (I guess). She looked at me and I smiled at her. Then she turned to her father and asked, "Did you tell her?" He said, "Tell her what?" "TELL HER THAT I'M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!" (With a "duh" tone to it) So he turned to look at me and told me. ahhhh. I felt my joy level go way up.
The second stranger ...
On Wednesday, Debbie and I took taxis to meet at Fashion Island (a huge, indoor/outdoor shopping mall) for a day of shopping, eating, laughing and catching up with each other. I arrived earlier than our meeting time and she was running late because her taxi driver got lost. (How do taxi drivers get lost? Getting places is their career.) I sat on a concrete ledge outside of a store for awhile then took a walk up and down the area. I spotted a bench so took a seat.
Almost immediately, an old man came walking quickly toward the bench. I didn't see him at all before, just looked up and here he came. Quickly. I would say he looked homeless but it was more of a disheveled look. There was some dried up vomit on his pant leg but his socks and shoes looked too clean to be homeless. He looked to be in his late 70's. He talked to himself. At first I thought he was talking to me but when I would look at him, he turned his head and continued talking. Stopping now and then to laugh. Throw back his head and laugh. And his talking was more like a very low mumbling. I couldn't make out what he was saying, and believe me, I tried.
He was on my right and I stayed busy studying the bushes and flowers to my left. The thought went through my head that he might try to murder me. I practiced in my head how I would scream. At one point he asked me, "Are you here to buy new clothes?" This was asked in a more normal level of volume...as opposed to his low volume mumbling. I responded, "No, just meeting a friend for a day together."
He asked, "Where are you from?"
I said, "Houston."
He said, "Oh, that's where the LBJ Library is?"
I said, "uhh....I don't think so, but maybe." (Agreeing in case this opposition angered him and he would try to murder me.)
Then he went back to looking away from me and conversing with himself. Laughing with his head thrown back. His mumbling was like talking while rolling marbles around in his mouth. His lips would go in and out and all around.
I noticed he had on loafers so I asked him if he ever put pennies in the slots. He looked at his shoes and mumbled.
I know you don't think I can be silent....but I can...and I was.
Then......he turned to me and asked, "What do you think about the election?"
I asked, "Do you really want to know?"
He mumbled.......I took that to mean yes.
I said, "I grew up in a Democratic home and married a very conservative Republican. I can see both sides so I don't really do politics. No one man can save or fix this country. I put all my faith in God."
He said, "I like Mitt Romney."
Then he mumbled some more...I caught a few words.....my father worked for the defense.....and then he turned his head and I couldn't make out what he was saying.
I asked, "What did you do for a living?"
He went in to a 5 minute mumble....laughing now and then with his head thrown back. So I have no idea what he said. It must have been funny though.
Thank goodness, Debbie's taxi pulled up. Whew!
Strange. Yet harmful. He came out of nowhere...and yet I won't soon forget him.
The third stranger ...
On Thursday, Debbie and I went to Balboa Island to shop the quaint little shops....and eat..........and talk and laugh.......still catching up with each other. NOBODY makes me laugh like Debbie and it's like medicine to me. This story is a long one but I will sum it up.
After an hour at breakfast and then seeing the shops on one side of the street, we crossed to the other side of the street. The first shop we went into on this side was a cute dress shop. We were the only customers in there and the beautiful blonde lady working behind the counter asked where we were from. We got that a lot that day...could have been the accents.
What started out by us telling her where we were from and why we were there, the conversation ended up with her telling us she was sad and leaving her husband and praying about it and her first son was born with a cleft palate and now he's been diagnosed with Austism and her husband was verbally abusive and addicted to gambling and more...so much more....and just before we came in she had been reading her daily devotional and praying for a good customer to come in....Christians, in fact. Now I know this sounds like she was a little nutty but she wasn't. She was a calm, sweet, beautiful woman ( *a Heidi Klum type) who worked there one day a week... a jewelry designer and a mostly stay at home mom who was in this terrible marriage and just knew she had to get out.
She just poured out her soul to us. And we listened. And told her she had to do what was right for herself and her children. Debbie talked to her about the scripture she was studying and I listened. I shared with her some of my "stuff" saying we all had "stuff".....We stayed in there about an hour or more and left thinking about her. And while she was still a stranger...it was clear to us that we impacted her and she impacted us. We all have something. Our sadness from broken relationships or financial failures or troubled children.
* I really want to emphasize this woman's outer beauty because I...we...society...tends to put so much emphasis on outer beauty. I was stunned that any man could be mean to her. With just a glance, I figured she had the perfect life. And we all are guilty of thinking...if only my thighs were thinner, my hair was blonder, my skin was flawless, I was thinner, I had a college degree...fill in the blank...my life would be perfect. Here she was...a real beauty and she was heartbroken because not just any man, but her man was verbally abusing her...and she was broken. When will we learn that our bodies are temporary? But God is permanent.
He wants us to come to Him with our sorrows.
Sometimes He sends a stranger to us....or we are that stranger to someone else. And we share our story...our pain...our sorrow and suddenly we don't feel so alone. Or the stranger makes us think of our problems as much smaller than theirs......or maybe that stranger just makes you smile.
And sometimes He sends a friend.