Barbara had come to help me, but just not in the way I expected her to.
We were talking, as she was getting ready to leave. I invited her to sit while she put her shoes back on. She declined, saying that she was just fine bending down. I watched as she slid her right foot out and tugged her first shoe on.
“I need to get going,” she said. “I’m on my way to deliver some things to a guy I work with.”
I allowed the conversation to move into a short lull, in hopes that she would continue on. She did.
“I was getting ready to leave the office when he asked me for a ride,” she said as she reached for her left shoe. “I thought I was just giving him a ride to his house, but that wasn’t the case. Once we were in the car, he asked if I would be kind enough to take him to the local food pantry so he could get dinner for his kids.”
She shoved her foot into the left shoe as a look of satisfaction stretched across her face.
“I couldn’t believe it! Here’s this guy, I work with every day, who is always happy and smiling, telling me he needed help to feed his kids!” she said as a few sparks flew from her eyes.
Since that occurrence, less than a week ago, she had mobilized others in her office to begin to help their friend. The man they never really knew.
“We’ve all gone through our homes to find the things his family needs,” she said. “We’ve given them beds, tables, couches and other things that were just sitting, unused, in our homes. Those things weren’t doing anything for us, but they have meant the world to him.
“We all cleaned out our pantries as well,” she continued with her hand turning the doornob to leave. “Still, there are a few more things I need to stop and purchase before I visit him tonight.”
I asked her to stop so I could reach into the pantry and help a little as well. Barbara’s eyes glistened as she thanked me and turned to the last leg of her day’s work. I watched her walk down the sidewalk and get into her car.
When Barbara came to visit me, I knew nothing about her. But by the time she left, I knew everything I needed to know.
We often spend our workdays in polite conversation with those we come into contact with; we think we know them, but we really don’t. I knew I didn’t know Barbara when she came. Yet, she made me wonder if I really knew anything at all about the many people I know. Or was I simply pretending to know?
The man Barbara works with, and was pretending to know, was really an acquaintance before. Now she’s his friend. She thought he was there to help her with her work. Now she knows he was given a place in her life for a great purpose: To allow her to discover satisfaction and real meaning in her life. It was always there, hiding in plain sight.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.