We, or at least I, often never know the impact we, I, have on one another. Sometimes all it takes is showing simple kindness and decency.
She moved across the hall, clearly intent on talking to me before the meeting began. Although it had been years, I recognized her. She had taken part in a group working on prison-related issues. I had been the staff to the group. I recognized her. But I could not recall her name.
“Do you remember me?” she asked before we had a chance to shake hands.
I answered truthfully. “I do. But I am sorry, I don’t recall your name.” I took her hand.
She smiled and told me her name. I smiled back.
“I will never forget you,” she said.
I shifted my weight, a tad uncomfortable.
“I came to you with my husband in prison. In prison for murder. Murder he had done.”
I shook my head in agreement.
“I asked if I would be welcome at the group you were with. That group working on prisons and prisoners. I was nervous, so nervous, because my husband was guilty. I felt alone, so alone. I could not find a place to talk about my husband and what he faced. Not in my church. Not in my community. I was desperate for support. I thought that group might be a place. But I was scared. Scared they would not want me either. But I was more scared of being alone. I finally got up my courage and asked you.”
“I remember,” I replied. Somehow my throat had become dry all of a sudden.
Tears pooled in her eyes.
“And do you remember what you said?”
She did not give me a chance even to nod. “You did not hesitate. You said, ‘Of course you would be welcome.’ And then you said, ‘If anyone has a problem with me being there you would speak with them.'”
“I did,” somehow I scratched the words out. Her tears flowed freely.
“It turned out that no one had a problem. I found a place I could tell my story freely and where people accepted me and loved me. I found a family in that group. They stood by me and they stood with me when my husband died in prison. They were wonderful. But none of that would have happened without you. None of that would have happened without your kindness to me. I will never forget you. God bless you”
The dryness of my throat was exceeded only by the wetness of my cheeks. And since words would not come, I did what I rarely do, I opened my arms and offered a hug.
And we hugged and wept together for a holy moment.
When I regained control of my voice I said, “Thank you for telling me. I am sorry about your husband’s death.”
“He was a good man. He had his flaws. And one big one. But I did love him.”
I smiled. “I knew that every time you talked about him.”
She scuffed the floor a bit. “When I saw you tonight, I had to tell you. I will never forget you.” We shook hands, smiled, and went our separate ways.
I have never seen her since that night.
But I have never forgotten her.
See you along the trail.