About ten years ago I was driving my Nissan Altima through the early morning rush hour streets of Southern California with my two little girls, aged 2 and 3 years old, buckled into the backseat. As usual I was in a hurry. As usual they started bickering. It was probably not even that annoying but I didn't know that then. I was stressed and exhausted and was sure that if I could just have some SILENCE then the stop and go, the rush and brake, would go away.
So I looked at them in the rear view mirror and said...well, I'm not sure what I said because I soon as I finished being angry, I looked in front of me just in time to see the bumper of the car in front of me not moving forward anymore.
I slammed on the brake with both feet but it was too late. Wham!
We weren't going very fast, thank God. No air bags deployed. No one was hurt. But still I burst into tears. I pulled over and the car in front of me pulled over and I got out, trembling at all the whatifs of that moment. Out of the car in front of me stepped a woman- maybe in her mid fifties- with a furrowed brow. She looked at me, she looked at her relatively unscathed car, she looked at my little girls in the back seat. Then she shook her head a little and said "Don't worry about it honey. Are you okay? Good. Be careful with those girls of yours."
Thank you wasn't enough but it was all I could think to say, over and over, as she got back into her car and drove away.
You know, it's not that remarkable of a story, really. She did a fairly unremarkable thing. But it was big to me. It meant so much to my 24 year old self and my frightened kids to have someone show us mercy and kindness in that moment.
I remember that lady a lot and when I do I pray for her. Whenever someone inexplicably pops into your head, do you do that too? Wherever she is, whoever she is, I hope she feels peace and joy in her life. Maybe I can be like her. Since I can't thank her in person, I'll thank her out loud here and maybe she can somehow know.
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy- St. Therese of Lisieux