Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Repeat of My Favorite"I" Word

Yes, I may have taken another trip out to IKEA.
I had a babysitter for a few hours, and I had carefully structured my kid-free day.

I had a short list of purchases.

I had my iPad in my purse.

I had set aside time to eat lunch at the cafe while I perused blogs on my iPad.

It was a beautiful plan.

I had just polished off my vegie wrap and was nursing the last of a diet Pepsi while scrolling through my blog roll when I heard a soft "Excuse me."

I looked up and saw a small, silghtly overweight Hispanic lady in her early sixties, dyed-red hair and long gray roots, a tall coffee cup in her hand, looking at me with the kindest smile on her face.

"Excuse me, but I just wanted to tell you that I think you're beautiful, really beautiful." she said in slow, purposeful speech.

This was unexpected.  What did she want? Money?

Slightly surprised, I replied, "Thank you."

"From my heart to yours, woman to woman, I think you're beautiful, and I just wanted to stop and tell you that." So sincere and sweet.

Again taken aback, I replied, "Thank you," hopefully sounding as sincere as she had.

"We never stop and really see people any more. We're so busy with this (and she gestured at the technology strewn over my table) that we look through people. May I sit down?" At this point, she pulled out the chair across from me, carefully took a seat, then continued: "This stuff is supposed to draw us closer together, but it drives us apart."

I continued analyzing this complete stranger. Who was she and what was her gimmick? She didn't look homeless--her denim shirt, acid washed and bedazzled, was clean. The large cross around her neck was studded with what looked like a diamond or two. A few moles on her face and crooked teeth, nothing unusual really.

I nodded in agreement and asked her name.

She carefully chose her next words: "My name is Lisa, and 21 years ago I was in an accident that left me in a coma for three months. The doctors told my family to remove the tubes so that I could die. I didn't die. And ever since then, in nineteen years, I've only had two bad days. Two bad days. Nobody can say that. I never have a bad day. You will never meet a happier person than me. And I'm not bragging."

I was intrigued.

She slowly continued, now with my full attention and more understanding of her speech patterns. "I see every day of the last nineteen years as a gift. Every single day. God is good, and life is a gift."

I agreed.  I recognized that I was in a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and I was reluctant for it to end.

She rose, but before she turned to leave, she touched her heart and repeated, "I think you're beautiful. Woman to woman, from my heart to yours. We need each other. Have a good day."

And she shuffled off.

My mouth gaped open and I stared after her, following her through the crowd with my eyes until my phone rang and broke the spell she'd left behind.

My brief visit with Lisa changed my outlook for the rest of the day.  I could relate to 21 years and nineteen years.  Twenty-one years ago, I became a mother for the first time, and nineteen years ago, I gave birth to my second child.

How many bad days had I experienced in the last two decades?  Many many many.  Some were bad days with justifiable reasons.   Most--were not.  How had I let such precious gifts-- hours and days spent mothering my children--escape me without relishing every single joyful second?  My life has been so good--is so good--and I rarely take the time to see it.

How often do I take the time to see others?  I am viewed by others as aloof and brusque and busy at my best and rude and mean at my worst.  How could I have squandered so much time not seeing and appreciating and loving those around me--both the stranger and those closest to me?

I must say that the rest of my afternoon was spent in a paradigm shift as I tried to see the world through Lisa's eyes (outside of my own familiar box of routines and opinions)--I saw people around me, tried to imagine their stories and  to appreciate them as children of the same loving God.  "God is good,"  she had said.  He is.  The list that had initially spurred my trip was almost forgotten in my altered mindset--what does stuff matter?  It's people that matter.  It's attitude and joy that matter.

I uncharacteristically waited without even a twinge of impatience as people struggled with their purchases and the temperamental scanner, caught up in my watching and thinking.  As I exited the store, I saw a sign in the parking lot that I'd never noticed before:
 Thank you, IKEA.  This will hopefully be a day and an experience I remember the rest of my life.

And thank you, Lisa--you changed my life in those few brief minutes, and wherever you may be, at least I know you're happy. I know I'll never be so lucky as to have you cross my path again.

Linking up to I at Jenny Matlock's today.
Jenny Matlock


  1. What a sweet experience! I think sometimes people are put into our path to remind us of things. Hopefully what Lisa said to you will stick with you for a long time, and I hope it will stick with me too. It's too easy to get caught up in little things and let it ruin your day. And I LOVED that she said "woman to woman. We need each other." It's SO true! How often do we talk bad about each other when we should be building each other up? How wonderful that she was willing to step in and build you up for what she probably thought would only be a moment.

  2. Very cool! Moments like that are just so cool. I'm glad you got to experience that, and that that woman could SEE you. 'Cause you are awesome.

  3. Thanks for passing what Lisa left with you along to the rest of us...

    What a neat experience!


  4. Hang onto that feeling, Jen. That meeting was a marvelous gift - first to you and then to the rest of us.

  5. Wow! What an incredible experience. Very cool. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Wow, I hope this will be a lasting gift! Thank you for sharing this incredible experience with us!

  7. I once spoke to a woman in a shop and told her I had admired her for a long time as she was really attractive and was always beautifully made up. She was taken aback but flattered. We now speak regularly when we meet!

  8. What a wonderful gift! I am glad you shared it with me.

  9. wow!!!! what a unexpected happy story!!!

    i have to remind myself at times that even though there is chaos in the house...(dishes piling up...laundry piling up...dust yelling...dinner burning) that it's still an awesome life and I should be so blessed to have it!

    thanks for sharing your story with Lisa

  10. great story - what a treasure!

  11. That exchange was a gift to you. And you've shared it with us. Thank you, Jen.

  12. What a great world this would be if everyone would find someone they had never met and give them a compliment. Both sides of the compliment would be happier.

  13. You found a treasure at Ikea and it didn't cost a cent. Great storytelling.

  14. I have been very often to Ikea (here in Brussels) but never met such a kind lady ! What a nice story !

  15. wow. I kept waiting for there to be a catch, too. What a gift. Thank you for passing it along.

  16. Isn't it great that someone was brave enough to approach a complete stranger and make their day. Why are we so afraid to complement someone but so eager to point out faults? Thank you to Lisa for encouraging me to make someone elses day too.

  17. Beautifully told story, thank you for sharing. I love the comments made above, how true that we just don't take the time to tell people what we admire or SEE in them--those we know and those we don't know. Great post

  18. That is amazing. I would have been thinking the same thing, "What does she want", but thank heavens there are beautiful people left in this world like Lisa.

  19. Jen -- a great post. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

  20. Are you sure she just wasn't trying to snatch your iPad?

    Hehe! I'm kidding, of course. That was a beautiful story.

    I can't go a day without being unhappy about something!

  21. Wow - incredibly powerful. I think we all could use this message.xo

  22. Wow. That must be one Ikea trip you'll never forget. It's a very sweet and very inspiring story and definitely an interesting chance encounter. It's almost as if she was sent your way by a higher power to make you pause, reflect and then share with us what you've experienced. Thanks for sharing this because it's making me think too :)

  23. Wow- what an amazing experience. Wow... Thank you for sharing

  24. Lisa sounds like an angel...what a wonderful interaction...what a life changing moment.

    This post really gave me food for thought. Woman to woman...what a message.

    Thank you.

    Hugs and A++++++++++++