Yesterday I was sitting in the bathroom stall at Big Lots, scrolling through Facebook when I heard you step into the bathroom, crying. At once I worried what was wrong, my mind flitting over what it could possibly be. I hurried out, careful to make it not seem like I was rushing, and there you were, eyes red and nose running. I didn’t know you, and still don’t. All I knew about you was that you worked there, which I knew from your black apron with the Big Lots logo on it with your name tag pinned just beneath. That’s the only way I knew what your name was, because I didn’t have enough time to ask properly.
What I did ask was what was wrong. You told me your grandfather had died, and of course the first words out of my mouth were the oh-so-common “I’m sorry.” I did mean them, though. I didn’t intend for them to sound trite. I was and am so very sorry that you lost him. I haven’t been there, and I dread the day I am there. As I washed my hands, I contemplated what I would say next, then asked whether it was unexpected. You said no; he had a heart problem. I nodded, again paused, and asked if there was anything I could do. Again you said no. As we both left the bathroom together, I offered what I had left at the time: “I hope your day gets better.” “Me too,” you said. Then we parted ways.
In the wake of that conversation, I wonder: Did I make a difference for you? Was I able to help, even a little bit? I did so badly want to. I do so badly wish I had done more. I could have asked whether you were close to him. It might have hurt, but wouldn’t it show I cared? I wanted to give you a hug, but I know some people don’t like hugs, and I found asking too awkward. I wish now I had asked. I wish I had tried. Yeah, it might have been a little awkward, but I can sacrifice my personal comfort to try to make your day better. I don’t know you, but I want your day to be better. I want your hurt to end. I want for our brief interaction to have brought you some small ray of hope in your pain.
Maybe I’ll see you again. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’ll be okay. I don’t need to know if I’ve made a difference, even though I might like to. Please, just take care of yourself. Be okay. Be better than okay. Heal when you’re ready. For me, but more for you and all those close to you.
With all the hope and love I can offer,