A new face joined us at Sister Circle yesterday. Only the face wasn’t new to me. She walked in and put her stuff down at the end seat exact opposite of mine. Four of our regular sister friends were already there. I looked over to say hello and welcome her, and my heart realized a split second before my mind did. It whispered, I know her.
If she recognized me, she gave no indication, so I took her lead on that. We started with each person introducing herself, and she used a nickname that I didn’t know. My mind carried on a conversation while I sought composure and to remember what we were doing next. “Maybe it’s not her–it’s been a long, long time. The name is different. You can’t be sure.”
But that voice.
And those eyes.
It was my friend from long ago.
After we shared our thoughts from the book we’ve been reading from by the Women of Magdalene, I offered paper, markers, colored pencils, mandalas, and construction paper in addition to crochet hooks and yarn for anyone who knew or wanted to learn how to crochet. The others in the room chose the art. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yeah. I’d like to learn to crochet.”
“Well come on over here and we’ll get started.” I patted the seat next to me, all the way across the room from where she was sitting.
She gathered her bag and came over. I asked about her favorite color as I had a selection of yarn in different shades and hues. Since I didn’t have black, her favorite color, she chose the bright pink. It would look really good with black, so it was the next best choice. I showed her how to make a slip knot. And then how to do the chain stitch.
I am not a good crochet or knitting teacher. I can show you, but I can’t guide you as you are doing it, because I have to feel it in my hands to tell you if it’s right or wrong. As I watched her trying to loop and pull back through, I coached her through it and we laughed that I had to keep taking it back to see what was the right way to turn the hook.
I watched her hands trying to coordinate and work together to create the chain that I would later add a circle to in order to create a “medallion” to honor our Sister Circle. I had once watched those hands wrap around a softball bat. She was a pretty good hitter if memory serves correctly. And she used them as she teased and talked. I remember that too, that teasing smile and how she would laugh.
“My Mama used to crochet. Knit too,” she said. “Not me, I never could, but she could do all that kind of stuff. Made all kinds of things.” Her Mama. Her face came to my mind immediately. I wondered where she was, how she was. I wondered what happened.
In my three plus years of being in community and friendship with folks who are homeless or otherwise in need, I have seen a lot of faces and a lot of sadness and even a lot of joy. I have heard some of their stories and wondered about others. I have loved people who, one week, just didn’t come back and their stories were left floating out there without ever being heard. But I have never seen a face and known the story from before…..before this. I have never been a part of their story from before…..until now.
After we finished her medallion together, she put it on and said, “Cool.” She gathered her things and stood up, preparing to leave. “I’ve got to meet this girl and give her her stuff. Sorry I gotta run.”
I looked up from gathering the yarn and hooks and scissors, “Hey, no, it’s not a problem. I hope you’ll come back.”
“Yeah, I might. Every Tuesday?”
“At 2. Well ish. We start as close to 2 as we can.” I laughed.
“Okay. See ya.”
And she was gone.
And I said nothing.
I don’t know what the right thing to do was. I want her to know she matters, that I care, that I remember, that I love her. But I also want to show her respect. If she doesn’t want us to bring up the past and the stories that brought her here, then I’m okay with that. I just hope that she didn’t feel ignored or “less than” since I didn’t acknowledge our shared past. Our friendship. This was hardly a catch up in the aisles at Wal-Mart kind of situation.
I can only keep my fingers crossed and tell God how much she means to me and how much I want to be a support for her. I am not sure why our paths crossed, but I’m glad they did. I find it ironic and totally apropos that I had planned the chain stitch for that day. We are all connected in the chain of life. I hope she will come back, if not next week then eventually. It’s been a long time since the days of church youth, softball, and elementary and junior high. Somehow I want to let her know that there’s still no story she can’t share with me.
And right now I just don’t know how best to do that. I’ve spent the past day and night thinking about it, and I still have no good answers.
The thing is each person whom I meet in our Sister Circle or at Daybreak has a story of how he or she got there, not just my friend. We all have those stories. If my friend doesn’t come back at all, I will be very, very sad. And worried–it’s what I do. But tonight I am thankful for being with her, if ever so briefly, and I’m thankful for the reminder that we all need to know we matter and that we are cared for. Every single one of us. I am lucky to have friends and family who let me know this. I think it’s up to those of us who have folks to remind us we matter to be that person for someone who doesn’t.
You matter and so does your story. Pass it on. And listen.
For now, it’s the best we can do.