What are we all doing here together? This question has been with me my entire life, and various answers to it have presented themselves depending on my age, circumstances, and where I’ve been in my personal and spiritual development.
I know many of us have come across the poem about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I thought everyone had, but in writing this, I encountered a couple people who’d never heard of it. So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, if you’re interested, you can find a version of it at http://www.considerthismoment.com/reason-season-lifetime/.
For a long time, when I thought about this idea, I focused mostly on the “season” relationships I was in and what appeared to be the lifetime ones because those seemed more important. Once I began to understand, however, how significantly those with whom I am in both long and short term relationships impact my growth and development, I started questioning if that could be true of anyone with whom I spent even the slightest amount of time. It became somewhat of a favorite pastime, as people came and went from my life, whether it be in a line at a grocery store or in a weekend workshop, to then pay attention to see if I could pinpoint the reason for the encounter. Then I came across two individuals that answered this question for me forever.
The first I met in a hospital waiting room outside of an intensive care unit. My mother had been rushed to the emergency room with staff pneumonia and hooked up to a ventilator. Our family was told we should be making a decision about how long to keep her on life support because she wouldn’t be able to come off the breathing machine. I spent hours at the hospital, my emotions raw, and one afternoon I went into the waiting room to sit until I could return to my mother’s bedside. I’d been there about fifteen minutes when several young men, covered in tattoos and wearing gang colors, walked in and filled the small area. I admit, I was immediately nervous, but felt too emotional to pay too much attention.
We all sat in silence for a long time, my thoughts occasionally turning to stereotypes and judgments. I’d never actually been around any real gang members. I’d only heard the stories on the news and warnings from people about walking through certain neighborhoods. At one point, I looked up and found the young man across from me staring at me. Just as my heart jumped, he asked me who I had in the hospital. His voice was quiet and gentle, and didn’t go with his appearance and what I’d made up about him. I told him about my mother, and he just nodded and said he was sorry. When I asked him who he was there for, his eyes filled with tears and he told me about his best friend being stabbed the night before. I saw my own fear of loss and worry in his face, my own glimmer of hope shining in his eyes.
For the next three days, we sat together off and on, but we didn’t talk much. There wasn’t a lot to say. Being with him, though, knowing someone understood what I was feeling, and having someone to whom to offer a smile, gave me strength and comfort. Then one afternoon when I arrived, he was waiting for me with a huge grin. His friend was released earlier to go home. He had waited for me, to say good-bye and to tell me he hoped my mother got better, too. I never saw him again, never knew his name, but I will never forget him.
The second person was a woman I met only online through a dating site. I contacted her because she had some of the kindest eyes I’d ever seen and she volunteered with a dog rescue program and took in foster dogs. I was touched. We e-mailed back and forth a little, then exchanged phone numbers. On our third or fourth call, she said there was something she really needed to tell me before we went any further. She sounded so nervous and scared. A little anxious myself, I assured her it would be all right and that I wanted her to be honest.
So, she told me she’d been in prison. That didn’t have too much of an impact since I’ve known other people who’ve served time for various things. I asked her for what, and she said, “Oooooh, I don’t want to have to tell you. But I will. It was for armed bank robbery.” I’ve never been so grateful to be on the phone and not face to face. My jaw literally dropped open. My editor tells me that hardly ever really happens, but it did in that moment. We talked for a long time about it. She answered all my questions, explained she’d been sober for seventeen years but back then her life was all about getting drugs. She was very sweet and very kind, and I was deeply impressed and moved by her honesty. If we hadn’t lived a couple of states apart and both had commitments where we were, something more could very well have come from our connection.
Both of these situations left me wondering what exactly they were for. For what “reason” did my path cross with each of them? It took me a little while to figure it out, but both of these people always come to my mind when I’m about to make a snap judgment of someone and need to be reminded to allow people to reveal themselves to me rather than me decide who they are based on something I think I already know.
What does all this have to do with my June release, Embracing the Dawn, you might be asking? Well, the woman who served time for bank robbery was actually the seed that was planted all those years ago for this novel. Jinx Tanner, one of the main characters in Embracing the Dawn, is loosely based on her. Jinx is an ex-con who served twenty years in prison and has been out for only three when she meets E. J. Bastien, a successful business executive. The rest of Jinx’s background is not linked with that of my friend’s, but she does portray the kindness, gentleness, and willingness to be so forthcoming about who she’s been and who she is that was shown to me through our brief encounter. So, it’s clear to me that part of the “reason” for our paths crossing was also to tell this story. You’ll also find the young man from the hospital among the pages.
Someone asked me just this morning what Embracing the Dawn is about. I think it’s about acceptance, about accepting ourselves as who we are and who we once were. It’s about accepting and meeting others where they are and loving them through changes they’re ready to make. It’s about deciding to be different than who we’ve been before and facing our fears as we do so. It’s about love and courage and being there for one another.