I see the bent woman from my car window as day fades into the gray of night. She stumbles on the uneven sidewalk, willing one foot in front of the other. She looks so alone. Oh God, I pray, help that weary soul get wherever she needs to go tonight.
I turn my attention to the storefronts till I find the Laundromat. Maybe it’s been a decade since I last needed one. Laundromats are way outside my comfort zone, and I’m overwhelmed. Crazy-lettered directions hang from the ceiling; they make no sense. “2 loads here, 4 loads in this one,” the faded sign says. “6 quarters regular, 8 quarters double spinning,” says the next. “Bleach dispenser half-full,” reads another. “No attendant on duty,” the last sign forewarns.
I see two women folding their finished loads, but with “Don’t ask me” shrugs, they look away. Then sensing someone next to me, I turn. And there she is. My stranger. She has no laundry with her. “Need help?” she asks.
“Oh, I saw you on the sidewalk minutes ago,” I answer in disbelief. “You looked so tired, I asked God to help you.” I watch a smile cross her soul-worry face. “But,” I say, “Guess I do need help. I’m a hopeless beginner.”
“Okay bein’ a beginner,” the woman nods. “Show me what ya’ got.” Then shuffling her tired feet, she leads me through the maze. “I’ll stay a piece, case you need me,” she says. “T’ain’t easy, this bein’ a beginner.”
Later, driving home, I wonder if someone told her “t’ain’t easy” when she was a child. Little ones are perpetual beginners. They face a relentless progression of skills – sit up, stand, talk, walk, make friends, obey, be independent, read, write, think, ride a bike. “T’ain’t easy, this bein’ a beginner.” Children need approval for their very trying. And they need to share the elation when they get it right, like the laughing toddler in red. “Look at me! Me did it!” she exclaims. Oh, the joy!
A Colorful Thought: The gift of encouragement, like my stranger gave me, waits only for the moment you connect with someone who needs you.