Reader’s Digest asks readers, “Have you ever been enlightened by a conversation with a stranger?” Here’s my answer.
Walking home from the bus stop late one evening, I passed by a young woman standing on the street corner. She stopped me and asked me where she could catch the next bus. I pointed out the stop up the street, but something in her face or in her voice made me look at her more closely and ask, “Are you okay?”
She said, “No,” and burst into tears.
During the long wait for the next bus, we paced up and down the sidewalk as she told me her story. She was from another city and had just left her abusive boyfriend. She was staying with a friend and was on her way to see another friend who might be willing to loan her some cash. She was unemployed and didn’t even have enough change for the bus fare.
I checked my purse but had only a few quarters myself. When the bus came, she managed to convince the driver to let her on, and I watched her ride away, wishing I could have helped her out with more than just some directions and a handful of coins. Then I realized that maybe I had given her something that she needed even more than money: a listening ear, a friendly voice, and a warm hand just when everything seemed cold, dark, and hopeless. I think about her a lot, and pray that wherever she is now, she’s doing okay.