What’s better… to lend money or an ear?

Who hasn’t been asked to lend some dough to somebody?  A friend, a co-worker or even a family member?

Today I was at Whole Foods (AKA Whole Paycheck) and I noticed a mother and her blind son, who appeared to also be mentally challenged, in some way.  After I got my salad, I went outside, sat down and began eating.  A little while later, the mother and son walked out and sat down next to me.

This mother was so loving, nurturing and full of patience.  She fed him, caressed his arm and spoke gently in his ear.  I’m not sure WHY I felt the need to barge into a stranger’s life, but I wanted to praise her, so she knew somebody noticed her life’s work.

I taped her on the arm, said, “Excuse me.  I don’t mean to interrupt, but I just wanted to let you know you are an inspiration.”  Immediately, tears started rolling down her face and she looked away, back to her son.

I chastised myself for being so assumptive that she actually needed praise from a complete stranger!  I felt so self-centered and like a total douche… until, she turned back and said, “I’m not normally like this,” as she wiped away tears flowing down her cheeks.

Of course, I figured she was upset about something with her son and his difficulties.  Nah, turns out, she had made peace with the life she’d been left with 14 years ago, when the doctors erred upon his birth, and left him in this state.

She was upset about her husband.  She poured her heart out to me, a complete stranger.  I sat, listen, and offered a few words.  After all, I had JUST come from my shrink’s office, so I was feeling pretty shrunk and capable of dispensing wisdom.

I wanted her to feel safe, so I shared some personal things.  It was such an incredible 15 minutes, or was it an hour?  I hardly know as time stood still.

After I left, I pondered what that was all about?  Did she so deeply need an ear that the “universe” (sorry to be so hippy dippy) masterminded me to reach out to her?  What if she had needed money?

Would I have loaned a complete stranger a couple of bucks?  Or, would I have felt like she was giving me a shake down, and that I would never be repaid?  No matter, lending an ear is something that never needs to be repaid.  It’s a gift.

When was the last time you truly connected with a complete stranger?  Tell me @tracymetro

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