It was a cold Sunday morning in February, when I sprinted down the street, 5 minutes late to church. I huffed and puffed, annoyed that my un-athleticism had to be paired with the 20-degree weather. I finally reached the big cathedral doors, when I spotted an older woman, wearing a long fur coat and a hat straight from the 1940s, anxiously staring into space on the side of the door. I approached her, asking what was wrong.
“Hello dear,” she said, “I forgot to bring a face mask, but they have no more, so I can’t enter the building”.
Wanting to help this evidently-stressed woman, I ran back to my car, grabbed an unopened face mask, ran back to the church, and gave it to her.
Her gratitude for the small gesture that took me all of 2 minutes warmed my heart. She graciously asked me to sit with her during mass. When it was over, she said,
“I know you’re probably busy, but if you don’t have plans I would love to re-pay you for your kindness with a quick trip to the bakery”. I smiled and thought about the offer. Normally, I wouldn’t go on impromptu coffee trips with strangers, but she seemed so hopeful, and quite frankly a little lonely, so I accepted her offer.
We walked across the street together, entering the cutest little bakery I’d ever seen. It shocked me that I’d never been there when it’s been right in the center of my town for years!
The old woman, who I soon found out was named Madeline, told me stories of her amazing past. She told me how her husband left her, and she was forced to become a single mom of three kids. She explained the hardship of being a single mother in the 1970s, but how she prevailed and was able to build a career for herself. I was fascinated and inspired by the strength she told me of.
She was fascinated by my story too, as I discussed losing my mother at 10, and growing up with a single parent. She then told me how special she could tell I was. We spent almost 2 hours laughing and talking in that little pink bakery across from my church.
When our adventure was over, I saw that she planned to walk home in the freezing cold. I insisted on driving her home. She thanked me for my kindness, and I thanked her for her lovely stories.
You might be surprised if I told you that this story is one of the “core memories” in my life. This quiet day at a bakery may not seem like much, but it forever impacted my outlook on life. It taught me the pure beauty that is human connection. Two strangers at church, one in her 70s, and one 17, with seemingly nothing in common, were able to share life lessons and learn from one another. Oh, how lovely those unexpected moments can be.
Life is filled with these special little moments, if we’re willing to accept them.