Although she told me not to talk to strangers, my mother always did. She talked to people standing in the checkout line, browsing through handbags at Rich’s, during a slow elevator ride when everyone else was seriously squinting at the buttons, at airports, football games and even the beach.
My mother’s habit of striking up conversations with people next to her may bring a smile to my eyes now, but it proved rather embarrassing during my teenage years. Kim’s getting her first one, too,” she confided to a woman also shopping with her daughter in the bra section of Rich’s. I contemplated running and hiding under a nearby terry cloth robe, but instead I turned crimson and hissed “Mothhhhherrrrr” between gritted teeth.
Not everyone responded when Mom made an observation and tried to spark a brief discussion. A few people completely ignored her. Whenever I was with her during those times, I could see she was a little hurt, but she’d shrug it off and we’d continue on our way.
Through those spontaneous chats, my mother taught me that our world is much too small not to have time to reach out to one another. She reminded me that as women, we enjoy a special kind of kinship, even if we’re not all alike. In the most mundane things, there are common threads that bind us. Just for the record, let’s assure ourselves that women who reach out to women don’t have to be graduates of a college or seminary! We all have something that is much more important. We have lived!
You have experienced life. You’ve rejoiced in birth and faced the reality of death. You may be a mother. You may have a career. You may be widowed. You may have been through divorce. You may be single. No matter where life has taken you, you have gone through all kinds of joy and suffering and you have something to share. “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction.” Proverbs 16:21 NIV
Why? Because in spite of all you’ve been through, you have not become embittered toward God. Instead you’ve walked with Him. You’ve let Him minister to you. You have not turned away, but have instead grown closer to Him. And now you have something to offer others who are in the same boat. “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” 1 Timothy 5:14 NIV
One of the last memories of my mother was at a luncheon right before she went to be with the Lord. She was smiling weakly and talking about how to best plant tulip bulbs. I sat silently, wanting to cry but feeling such a surge of love and warmth. She taught me to see the best in others. I’ll never forget it, especially now when I turn to a stranger at Publix and say, “Don’t you just love it when…”