I felt it before I heard it. The slightest sensation of my handbag brushing against something. In a split second, before I could turn, I felt the foreboding vibrations of something gone awry, something teetering and somehow I knew that if I turned even the tiniest bit there was going to be a domino effect with that dangling handbag. I froze in place. The ensuing crash was big, bold and reverberated throughout the room.
The store fell silent.
The past two weeks had been a roller coaster of emotions. My sister’s son had been critically injured in an accident and was now in his second week of Trauma ICU. Day after day he teetered between life and death. On day eleven, I found myself making the five hundred mile journey to Pennsylvania to be with her at his bedside. There seemed to be nothing I could do to help Kevin, but being there to support my sister was a gift I could give.
Now I was on my way back home to North Carolina. The leaving had been difficult. I was torn between the need to be back at work simply because I had run out of vacation time, and the ever stronger desire to stay right there with Tammy and Kevin.
On top of everything else, I wasn’t feeling well and that was a worry. I was coughing and had a low grade fever. Had I picked up a bug somewhere? If so, it would be devastating if I had carried the sickness into Kevin’s ICU room and shared it with either him or Tammy. The very thought that I could have complicated the situation was unsettling.
Those were the heavy thoughts churning through my mind as I exited the highway to make an unscheduled stop at a department store. I was going to visit my son that weekend at college and he needed a chair for his dorm room. It would be hard to find time to go shopping once I arrived home. Maybe a suitable chair could be found during the day’s travels while passing through several states.
I wandered toward the rear of the store where household items were displayed, and that is the moment when I felt my handbag brush against something. In a split second there was the teetering, the falling, and before I even had time to turn and see what the item was, the crash heard ‘round the store.
Silence. A gasp nearby. Blood rushing to my face.
The nearest store clerk rushed my direction. “Are you okay?” she said with genuine concern. I exhaled, ashamed to look her directly in the eye. “I’m okay,” I replied. “But I am afraid that isn’t,” as I pointed down at a dozen or more shattered pieces scattered about the floor.
“I’m not worried about that,” she replied. “I just want to know that YOU are okay. You’re not cut anywhere are you?”
Are you okay?
How often do we see the messes people have made, the damage they have done, the task to “clean it up,” and we fail to ask “Are you okay?” How often do we focus on fixing the problem when we should be focused on caring for the person?
Not only am I reminded of the times when I have thrown proverbial stones at others, I am deeply aware of how often I hurl stones at myself. You loser. You failed again. What is wrong with you? You really messed up this time, girl.
And then I see Him stoop on my behalf and I hear the Still, Small Voice say “Are you okay, child? Neither do I condemn you…”