I have been thinking about The Mystery Woman who was present when I fell and broke my ankle a week ago.
When I arrived at the recreation center to pick up recycling bins, I parked behind a large SUV with its engine running, and I noticed a woman sitting in the driver's seat. Moments later I was on the ground, ankle swelling beyond human understanding, but one of my first thoughts, since I didn't notice anyone else in the area, was at least that woman was there and would come to my aid.
At that moment another car drove by and the woman inside lowered her window and said she would park and come help me. "Don't move," she said. Then two men appeared, someone from the rec center who said he had called the ambulance, and another man who wrapped me in a blanket, A Green Bay Packer blanket, no less.
No sign of The Mystery Woman. No word from The Mystery Woman.
The Green Bay Packer Man noticed the car with its engine running, too, and looked to see if anyone was in it and reported that a woman was indeed inside. I could tell he thought her lack of response was odd.
Before long, the ambulance had arrived, and I was lifted gently and competently inside. The Mystery Woman was still inside her car.
The Need For Response
I am sure each of us has had moments when we have responded immediately to a crisis or uncomfortable, uncertain situation. Someone on our path needs help and there we are. Perhaps all that was needed was an assist through a door or retrieval of a fallen package or it may have been more--being the first on the scene and calling 911 or even administering CPR. Our response was instinctual and one in which we did not stop to weigh the pros and cons.
One day many years ago as I pulled into a parking lot of a strip mall, I noticed a young woman lock the door of her car and head towards one of the stores. She had a package in her hands. Eventually, I left my car and on my way into the same store, I caught a glimpse of a sleeping child in the back seat of the woman's car. Without thinking, I ran into the store and found the woman in line at the check out wanting to make a return. I went up to her and said, "I followed you here because I saw that you left your child in your car. You have a choice. You can either return to your car RIGHT NOW or I will call the police RIGHT NOW." She was furious with me, called me names, and told me to mind my own business, but she did go right back to the car without completing her task. I returned to my car and waited there until she left.
In retrospect I wish I had called the police immediately, but I hope at the very least my action made her think enough to never do something so foolhardy again. In the aftermath I shook and wondered where I found the courage, quite frankly, to confront her, but I knew I had done the right thing. For the child, the mother, and for myself.
Living with an Open Heart
I have no need to judge, but I do wonder about The Mystery Woman. Fortunately, I was blessed with people who responded quickly and compassionately. I wish I knew who they were in order to thank them personally, and at some point I will go back to the rec center and see if I can find the man who made the call for the ambulance. I needed their help and they gave with open hearts.
The Mystery Woman has a story, one I will never know. I can't begin to guess or make any assumptions, which is always a dangerous thing to do anyway, but there is a reason she is The Mystery Woman. When she shared her day with family or friends, I wonder if she mentioned seeing a woman fall on the ice. What did she say and what kind of response did she get?
My prayer is that I may live with an open heart, a heart that allows me to respond to the needs I encounter as I move through my days. I pray I will not be someone else's Mystery Woman.
When have you benefited from the kindness of strangers and when have you felt your heart open enough to respond to the needs on another on your path? I would love to know.