"I like your skirt," I said with a smile as my friend (who had just become a new grandmother) and I entered the elevator. In my mind, I quickly thought: Why did I say that? I wasn't thinking that. But I had said it and the tired black woman who had offered to show us the quickest way to the cafeteria fluffed her skirt and smiled. For the rest of the ride from the 8th floor to the 3rd, we talked about a small department store where she had purchased the skirt - for $3.95 with a coupon.
As we exited the elevator, I sensed that there was more I was to say to this woman. But not sure what it was, I thanked her for showing us the way. "You must have been here a while. You seem to know your way around," I said to her. "Been her 21 days," she said with a quiet, sad voice. Then I just seemed to know that I was to "enter into her sufferings" for a little bit. God affirmed this in my heart.
The conversation went on:
"So, you must have someone in intensive care." (Me)
"Yes, my husband has been in and out three times this month. Doctors say he will not make it through the weekend." (My new friend)
"Oh, I am so sorry!" (I touched her shoulder) "What happened to him?" (Me)
"He got some kind of fungal infection - very rare. Most doctors around here have never seen it before. Now the infection has caused his brain to swell." (My new friend)
From there, we asked her if she had anyone with her and she said they were all in her hometown (which was about an hour away). She told us that she did have a church family and that she was a Christian. That was the only thing getting her through this. She was blessed with many good friends and they called her every day. Her testimony of God's grace and peace was palpable. Powerful.
As we encircled her with our Christian bond of love, there were two more things to do before we left her. I put my arms around her and I said, "My friend, I am buying your lunch today. God told me to do that. I want to do that." She looked at me as she comprehended what I said and then she cried quietly. I told her that I was a new author, had written a book about our life in Liberia, West Africa. She seemed intrigued and said she would sure like to read it. I smiled as I pulled the only copy that I had tucked away in my pocketbook. "I believe this copy is for you." Again, she cried and held the book tightly as she said, "IN THIS PLACE. What a nice title. We all have our places we are to be, don't we? And He is in that place with us." I nodded yes, unsure of my voice as again I saw God receiving glory and strengthening one of His own through the words He allowed me to write.
As I watched my new friend walk away with her bag of food and the book tucked under her arm, I wanted to kneel - right there - in awe of my Heavenly Father and what He had allowed me to experience. Entering into the suffering of another is not ever an easy thing, but the blessings that God extends are breathtaking!
And all because of a pretty purple skirt!