Thursday afternoon I made a new friend. A two-time cancer survivor, Juanita’s power was shut off while her laundry was in the washer and she came in to use our laundry machines. Though not new to our community she and I had not met.
While waiting for her turn we talked. She has weathered more storms than most and I was honored to be entrusted with some of them. Seeing she was at a tipping point I offered to carry some of the load.
Her husband had beat her badly. That she found herself in an abusive marriage was to be expected as her parents were also abusive. Having freed herself from her husband she finally opened herself up to the possibility of something that at least resembled love with a man who was a week ago arrested for robbery.
She has two children. One of them is experiencing homelessness. The other is on death row.
The most difficult thing in being the hearer of these stories is to react in an appropriately empathic way yet not fall apart completely.
Even as she was telling me this story there was a light in her eyes. She had not lost hope. We spoke of all of the ways she had given to others in the past and what impact she had made in the community.
Today my phone rang. It was Juanita. She began our conversation with, “Pastor Sarah, I just wanted to tell you some good news.” Her son is still on death row. Her other son is still unhoused. But she is affirmed that there are things that she can change; that she has intrinsic worth and value – so much so that she can and should share it with others.
She was calling to tell me that after our conversation she re-enrolled to volunteer at the local literacy center.
I did NOT wait until getting off of the phone to let out a cheer.
She closed by saying, “God bless you, Pastor Sarah. I’m so glad I met you.” Right back at you. Right. Back. At. You.