My tap-on-the-shoulder story happened on a day that started out very exciting. I was preparing for a photo shoot. A big shoot. Lots of ladies! My co-photographer had arranged for us to pick up a light which was an essential piece of equipment. Everything was arranged. A 5pm start- equipment ready, ladies ready and excited.
Around noon I received a call. I was asked, “Can we begin at 4?” “Sure! We’re all ready!” After making a couple of calls, however, I discovered we couldn’t get the very necessary light any earlier. In fact, we may not be able to get it at all. So I got angry. Really angry. And started phoning. And panicking. We didn’t have a light. The negative self-talk began and continued through my phone calls, gathering of my equipment, and arranging child-care while I tried to take care of the problem. I had to go with the only option available. I had no time to price-check or become fussy about where I would get a light. There are people depending on me! How could I let this happen!
I jumped in my car, still angry and I sped the 35 minute drive down the highway, through downtown and peeled into the tiny parking lot. I leapt out of my car. Before I could get through the door, a man stopped me. He was well dressed and clean shaven and he said, “Excuse me. D-d-d-d-o y-y-y-y-ou k-n-n-n-n-ow h-h-h-how I c-c-c-can g-g-g-g-get a hold of th-th-th-the t-t-t-t-t-rain d-d-d-d-d-epot?” I said “No, I’m sorry, I don’t, but it should be that way somewhere,” as I waved my hand dismissively in the direction of the tracks.
He continued to tell me his story. He is from out of town, a tradesman of some kind, and his name is Jim. And he has a stutter. And he apologizes because it grows worse when he’s nervous. I have to concentrate on what he is saying. I have to slow down. Listen. Be still!
He has stopped me dead in my tracks. And I almost laugh out loud. Not because of him, but because he has completely derailed me. I was angry. I was distracted. Distracted from the real reason I get excited to shoot pictures. Distracted from the gratitude that we discovered we had no light while I still had time to find one. Distracted from shouting for joy that we had so many ladies!
And right there in a small parking lot of a camera shop, God gave me Jim. With a stutter. And a problem way bigger than mine. He had left his laptop, cell phone and wallet on the train. He had nothing. NOTHING to prove that he was who he said he was. NOTHING to convince me he was telling the Truth. Nothing.
The only thing I had was faith and a great BIG God calling me to slow down and give to the poor. He needed to be at the Greyhound station by 4pm to go home. I can’t imagine what a helpless feeling. I can’t imagine how much bravery it must have taken to walk up to a stranger stomping across a parking lot, knowing you’re going to have trouble communicating and people may not listen.
Jim asked for the exact amount of the bus fare but I gave him more money in case he needed a sandwich or something. He wanted a phone number to contact me to return my money when he got home but I told him not to worry about it. I’ll never forget the look on his face. It was so beautiful. All he said was, “Thank you. God bless you.”
Jim may have not been telling the truth. But all I could think of was “What if?” What if he’s telling the truth? What if I’m all he has in this moment? What is this costing me to help? Really, nothing. When I woke up that morning, my day was planned. But God sent me downtown, I believe to gently guide me back to what is important. I literally laughed all the way home in stunned awe. Regardless of what Jim did after we left each other, we were supposed to meet.