Friday, March 2, 2012

Ask Someone's Story | Caring for Each Other in Mindfulness

I had an interesting experience at the post office this morning. I was stopping in on my way to work to mail a package and some cards.  There were two people ahead of me and another woman off to the side filling out a form.  As I was about to be the next person in line, I keep looking over at the woman filling out the form, hoping she wouldn't be done before it was my turn.  I wanted to be next.

Well, she did finish filling out her form, and then she looked to me, and said, "You go ahead. Please." I asked if she was sure. I told her I was on my way to work and that I thought she must be too. In my first impression, the initial scan that we all subconsciously do when we meet someone, I summed her up: late 50s or early 60s, dressed up nicely and probably well-to-do (I was at a post office in an affluent neighborhood on my way to work, so I assumed she was affluent -- even though I'm not and I was also conducting business there.)

Oh, no," she said, looking a bit downcast, "I haven't worked in a long time.  I've been looking, but I haven't been able to find anything."

Something shifted within me, instantly, I was aware of all of the judgments I'd made about this woman in literally a few seconds. I was all ready to feel inferior and to have an awkward moment with her about who would go next in line (so trivial, I know, but think about how many minutes in our day are taken up by these kinds of circumstances and thinking)...My heart softened instead.

I could feel my face and posture changing to that of a more compassionate, receptive person.  In my heart, I felt urged to make that moment matter and to let her know that SHE matters.

I asked her what kind of work she does or would like to do. She told me that she used to be an office manager and enjoys administrative assistant work, but that she's been a stay-at-home caretaker to her elderly mom for the past nine years, and her mother had just passed away. She also shared that she was at the post office because, not only could she no longer afford to pay the rental fee on her PO BOX, but she also needed the deposit back on the key.  Imagine how humbled I was in that moment.

We talked a bit more. She told me that she thinks that she isn't getting responses from jobs because her last job listed on her resume is from nine years ago. I encouraged her to go home and update her resume right away.  Being that I am sometimes hired by clients to revamp or create a resume, I felt in a position to give her some advice. I suggested that she list herself as a "Professional Caregiver" for that nine year period and to list all of the skills, abilities, and tasks that made up her days for the past nine years. I told her that all that effort and hard work counts. I told her that what she did matters, and that SHE matters. She thanked me. I told her not to give up hope. She responded, "I was about to. Thank you for your kindness. God Bless You."

She's been on my heart all day.

Remember, a stranger is only "strange" until you know her story. Then, she's just as human, vulnerable, and important as you.



  1. It's true that untill we know someone we never really know their story (..and sometimes not even then!). At some point we've all been judged or judged someone else. We can be a little too quick to cast our opinions. I am taking this post on board and it touches my heart, too- it really is food for thought. On my journey, before I find myself making those assumptions (that we all do), I'll stop. I'll think a while. Thank you for that Debbie. Much love to you. Sabrina. (@isabbycat) x

  2. hey she still has a great chance, i hadnt worked for 19 yrs while my kids were in school, theyre 8 yrs apart so i was home a long time...... my first application at tjmaxx landed me merchandising coordinator, i went to school for merchandising in the late 70s worked 2 retail jobs then home for 19 yrs.
    she will get something, you just cant think that anything is below you.


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