12 years ago I pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall. As I pulled into the lot, I saw a woman pulling out of the same lot and could clearly see she was crying hysterically. I know it sounds like a weird thing to remember, but that woman has haunted me since I saw her that day. I've pictured what she was crying about as I've entered into different stages of my life.
When I was in the dating world, I wondered if her boyfriend broke up with her in a ugly way.
When I got laid off of my job, I wondered if she was devastated not knowing how she'd pay her bills.
When I got married, I wondered if she just had a big fight with her husband.
When my mom got sick, I wondered if she found out she was going to lose a cherished loved one to a terminal illness.
And of course now I wonder if she had just been handed an infertility diagnosis or maybe had lost her baby to miscarriage.
Obviously I'll never know for sure, but it's fascinated me that she's stayed so embedded in my thoughts this long after the fact.
It has made me realize that no matter where we are in life, someone we walk past might be about to get into their car and cry. Or maybe they just got done crying and had wiped away the tears to face the world again. When we see the woman in line who dropped the mayonnaise jar and tears well up in her eyes, it may be deeper than the mayonnaise. When we walk past someone at the mall and accidentally bump into them and they respond with dirty look, they might not be a rotten miserable person after all. There may be pain that is not as obvious as a billboard sign on their face.
The moral for me is that it is important to be kind to strangers because you never know what battles they are facing. There are times I wish the world had been kinder to me even though no one knew the pain behind my smile. And kindness from strangers felt amplified when I was especially sorrowful. I hope and pray I've offered a moment of kindness to a silently suffering stranger. But one thing I know for sure, I've definitely been that woman crying alone in the car. And I wonder if there was ever a time a stranger saw me and has wondered why.
Have you ever been that woman?