I had the privilege of being inconvenienced last week. I'm sure that sounds odd, but I mean it literally. I left Birmingham early one morning for an appointment in Montgomery, and the guy I was supposed to meet never showed. Typically, that's a frustrating circumstance, but instead, I was gifted with fifteen minutes of time with a beautiful soul.
Granny June, as her family calls her, greeted me with a warm smile and an offer to get me coffee while I waited. In the few moments that followed she shared all about her family, what life was like when she was a child (she's now in her late 70's), and the love she has for her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her eyes lit up when she explained how one of her great grandchildren was named after her.
In just a few minutes of hearing her story, though, she made two comments only in passing I couldn't get out of my head.
"I was leaving church that day, it was when my husband had become too sick to keep going with me, so I was by myself."
"I have a twin sister. People always ask how she got all the looks. I would just tell them I got the brains."
Neither statements were said with sadness or bitterness, and the conversation carried on quickly. As I rode the elevator back to the ground floor and approached my car, I realized how significantly a random encounter had affected me.
I had glimpsed into a much deeper part of her story...she had subtly shown a glimpse of her soul.
I imagined the long days of taking care of her husband, remembering the sweet times together as his life faded, feeling the loneliness as the things they once shared became activities she did alone, the grief that probably still remains to this day from the moment she lost him...
I felt the pain of a young girl bullied by those who couldn't see how their comments would create years of insecurity, or even jealousy, when being compared to her sister...
It would have been so easy to be distracted by the obvious circumstance of my appointment falling through and miss the chance to have a truly human experience.
What would that fifteen minutes have looked like if I had been determined to catch up on social media or too frustrated to truly be present with her?
We are surrounded by intricate lives. People are wonderfully complex and normally possess so much more than their most obvious traits.
Granny June helped me see something she probably had no intention of doing: time helps us be whole. From day one of being a young girl in the 40's in Selma, to being a great grandma talking to a random guy in an attorney's office lobby, she has experienced a full spectrum of what life has to offer, good and bad, and is still smiling at age seventy-six.
Thanks, Granny June...for the coffee and the invitation to keep going.