I don't often take the time to just observe the world going on around me. I get so caught up in our lives--football and baseball games with the boys, Little League meetings, the drama and effort that comes with a marriage of over 16 years--that I simply don't register life around me. Oh, I see it. I see the neighbor down the street, walking their dog. I see the mother in the grocery store, alternately ignoring and giving in to the begging toddler in her cart. I see the kids in the neighborhood, riding their bikes up and down the street. But these are all different parts of my world. What I don't often see are people outside of my little bubble.
Coach and I spent the morning in the waiting area of a local government outreach program's office. Out of love and respect for the man I spend my nights with, I'm not going to be any more specific than that. And yes, it was a long wait. We got there before 9 AM, and didn't get out of there until after 11. All that waiting for a very brief, literally six-minute consultation at the front window. Rather anti-climactic, really.
But oh! That waiting period. The things I saw and heard. The many variations of humanity I witnessed. The life I got to see.
There was the tired looking mother, pushing the stroller back and forth, back and forth, back and forth; never even stopping when she had to reach down and pick up the baby doll that had carelessly been thrown to the ground. Again. The bone-deep sigh when she discovered that her child had somehow managed to amputate the arm of that poor little doll.
The older gentleman, wearing a tattered old army flak jacket. His weathered, scruffy face and slow, stooped and shaky gait seemed so at odds with the gentle smile he kept directing towards that stroller. I imagined I could almost see his memories of his own children at that age. And every time he spoke, it was softly and with so much respect, I truly felt humbled.
The older woman sitting in front of me, who seemed to be wearing an expression of such sad confusion. She occasionally rocked back and forth in her seat, and her expression would look just a little more perplexed; almost like she was trying to work something out in her mind.
The two young women behind me, bonding over the fact that one of them lived in the same area and belonged to the same gang that the other's boyfriend was in. They were talking about their babies, and when they were due. They talked about how they both really needed to stop getting in so many fights now that they were pregnant. Not out of any concern for the babies, but because they agreed that jail was no good place to be pregnant.
Or the young woman across the room, desperately flirting with the apparently single young man sitting two chairs down. Despite the fact that she looked to be about 6 months pregnant. What he saw (as he remarked upon to the girls sitting behind me after she left) was someone with a grating sense of humor, who was full of herself, and who admitted to having no idea who the father of her baby was. What I saw was a young woman with no faith in herself trying too hard to make someone, anyone, like her; and apparently had been trying that for quite some time.
I sat there in that room, with my head on Coach's shoulder, wishing myself anywhere else but there. We didn't fit in there, we stuck out like a sore thumb in that room full of people who needed to be there. And then it occurred to me that WE needed to be there. We were no better or worse than these people. Everyone in that room was there because somewhere along the highway of their life, they had hit a pothole and needed some help to get moving again. I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone in that room would willingly use that helping hand as it was intended and make it their mission NOT to come back to that roomful of chairs and life stories. Not everyone will have the ability to do that, either. No, some of these people will be there, week after week; month after month; year after year, for reasons that I will never know.
I'm one of the determined ones, though. I will, God willing, be given the help we need to get to a point where we don't need that help anymore. But you know what? I'm thankful for the time I spent in that room this morning. I got to witness a side of humanity that I have not often been witness to. And I was reminded of every blessing I have in my life right now.
My boys, who don't often complain about the situation we're in. They don't ask for new clothes or new shoes, or to go out to dinner. They're happy eating ramen noodles and tuna casserole. I know who their daddy is, and even after 16 years he is still the man I go to bed with each night and share the highs and lows of my days with. I guess I take them all for granted sometimes, and needed reminding. I really am truly blessed.
So why wouldn't Coach want me to share that with you all?