One evening earlier this week, I parked in a three minute load/unload only zone outside the emergency room of the hospital where Alexi works, waiting for him to emerge. A woman approached the car, waving. Through the raindrop-splattered window and the dim light of the distant streetlight I peered out. I recognized the shadowy face, the silhouette as a friend from my book club whom I hadn’t seen in a while, whose husband is a physician at this hospital also. I waved back, smiled, and rolled down the window. I realized the elegant woman was not who I thought she was, and saw she was tearful, distraught, on the verge of hysterics. She apologized for disturbing me, and asked if I had a US $20 bill I would exchange for a Canadian $20 bill. She told me her dad was in the emergency room, having suffered a heart attack; she needed to take a cab somewhere, but the driver wouldn’t take Canadian money. I swallowed my surprise, glanced at my boys in the back seat, and told her, truthfully, that I had no American money on me to trade her. I tried to brainstorm where she might be able to get help, suggesting she try the hotel next door. She said she'd already tried there. As I started to call Alexi to ask for his input, she abruptly headed back toward the hospital. Before I had time to reflect about what had just happened, and wonder more about what her story was, the kids, from the back seat, gave voice to my surfacing questions.
Yesterday noon, on the way home from an exercise class, I stopped in at a neighborhood grocery store. As I got in line to pay for my cartload of provisions, I became distracted by the sweets and holiday offerings, filling my cart further with ‘stocking stuffers.' When it was finally my turn to check out, I was mortified to realize I’d inadvertently gotten in the “10 items – Give or Take” line with my overflowing basket. My nose started to drip, as it does when I’m embarrassed or worried. I started to move to the back of another line when the cashier stopped me, insisting I stay. He pointed out that the sign says ‘give or take.’ He said they had other people who could help cashier if they got too busy, and gave me a tissue. After he had bagged up what I bought he offered to have someone help me to my car.
This morning, after meeting a friend for coffee and catching up about her Hanukah and her terminally ill mother, my Christmas plans, and various parenting issues, I drove home and heard the horrific news of the children and others shot today in Connecticut. I thought of nothing else the rest of the day. I picked up my boys from school with something like reverence. We stopped for burgers and fries on the way to Abbott’s hockey practice, and I let them watch Elf in the car, as Friday is usually our movie night. They laughed until they cried at the at times spoofy story of redemption.
We do the best we can to navigate the conscious and unconscious happenings that fill our days, and hope for the best. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.