I will call her Jean. She was homeless. I didn’t know it initially, but she shared with me later that friends in her community had collected money amongst themselves to bring her with them to a women’s retreat I was leading. The theme of the retreat was using your story to bring hope to the world.
Visibly, Jean was the epitome of meekness. Quiet, humble, respectful. Kind. As we moved through the first day of the retreat, she didn’t speak a word, but took everything in. I was drawn to her evident disposition of putting others first at every opportunity; clapping for those who shared, bless-you-ing those who sneezed, offering a tissue to someone who needed it.
But she remained quiet. She let others talk. She listened.
It wasn’t until day two of the retreat that Jean approached me and asked if she could share her story with me. We found two chairs in a quiet spot and sat down.
What struck me immediately was, up close, the intense beauty of her eyes. Bold, bright blue. They told me something about her that her demeanor hadn’t: She had a dream.
Born out of her own life experience, Jean shared with me that she had a passion on her heart, to bring community to those who had none. She said she knows how it feels to have nothing, and how, in that situation, even the seemingly simplest act of kindness or love can bring hope and joy to your heart. She had begun using her local library for research and correspondence; she had the support of her friends and those who worked at shelters and service providers she, personally, had utilized; she was doing what she could to pursue a dream on her heart.
She told me didn’t care about money, although she’d love to be able to provide for herself a living and a place to live.
What she cared about most was using her experience for good, to make a difference. In my mind, she was the living example of the very retreat I was leading (although she was too meek for me to make that public).
She impacted my heart in a hundred different ways. All good.
At the close of the retreat, each participant received a Note of Encouragement. These notes are created by children I work with during author visits, to encourage the story in someone they’ll never meet. Jean came up to me immediately at the close of the session and asked if she could write a thank you note to Lily, the girl who had created her card. I told her I’d be happy to send a note from her back to the school, with hopes the school could identify the correct Lily, as children are instructed to use only their first name on their notes.
A short time later, Jean handed to me the note she’d written to Lily, along with a postcard of a rainbow that she wanted Lily to have. I read the note and cried:
Your encouragement card was given to me today. You wrote, “Life is like a stage… sometimes you have to improv.” This was the perfect time to receive those words. You certainly have encouraged me. Thank you so very much.
I have sent a picture of a rainbow because a rainbow reveals itself when there is sunshine and rain together. This is the only time one is seen. You gave me sunshine when my life gave me rain. You are my rainbow. Again, thank you.
Someone who, in the world’s eyes, seemingly has nothing… recognizes and returns one of the greatest riches of all: The gift of authentically encouraging the heart of another.
You can convince me of no other: This is the kind of strength that changes the world.
Thank you, Jean. May your dream be given wings.
Follow my blog via feed or email: