With all those student stories thick in my mind, I leave my house for a doctor’s appointment. I want to interact with nobody. It’s that kind of morning, and as an extrovert, you know it means something if I don’t want to talk. I give off all the signals: glasses on, sweatpants, hair in a ponytail, no makeup. I’m serious; I’m in no mood to converse. Besides, I find there’s a People Magazine in the waiting room, and I can’t resist celebrity gossip.
An office assistant asks me how my Thanksgiving was. I say, “Fine.” I cross my legs and bury my face into pictures of Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes. To be polite, I say, “How was your holiday?” But I’m not looking at her. I’m not paying any attention.
“Well. . .” she begins. But I know she can read the signals. She doesn’t continue. She turns back to her desk work, and I read an entire article about how Katie Holmes has rebuilt her life. I’m really into her story, but the whole time, I’m nagged by the thought of that office assistant wanting to tell me something. I ignore the prompt and read about more celebrities. Finally, I obey.
“I finished reading all my celebrity gossip,” I laugh as she looks up. “Now I can talk! Tell me all about your holiday.”
And so she begins, slowly at first. Something terrible has happened to her family, and it wasn’t a holiday at all. She tells her story, and I acknowledge every single searing sentence.
I’m called back for my appointment. The whole time, I’m thinking about what words I might say and how I might comfort her. When I finally return to the waiting area, I tell her again how sorry I am about what’s happening in her life. And then I remember what my friend said helped her when she was in the pit of grieving and anger. A wise mentor said to look for “holy moments” throughout the day–little signs of God’s grace and presence. That’s all you can do. You sit there in your pain and all you can do is look up and see a tiny little crack into something holy.
Before I can utter the words, the assistant says, “I’m haunted by pain every single day.”
So I say, “I don’t know anything to say except that a friend of mine said something about holy moments.” I mumble and stumble and feel awkward. I talk about God’s love and say all the wrong things. It’s ridiculous. I should have just. . . I don’t know. Why do people like me feel like they need to give advice? Hurting people don’t want advice.
But she smiles and nods an eager Yes! “Yes!” she says. “Yes! That’s exactly right.” Her eyes are shining. Some darkness has lightened inside of her.
We stand there, looking at each other, and I realize I’m in a holy moment right now. There’s a little crack of light.
And in that space, I remember again to listen to the stories of people–even strangers–around me. It’s a holy place.