I was walking through the mall shopping for October birthday gifts when I passed by Starbucks and thought, “No, I don’t need an iced chai with soy!” However, like so many times before, I found myself standing in line with several others wondering why this place held such power over me. As I was debating with my inner monologue, I felt someone walk up behind me. Though small, I knew they were there. Doesn’t seem odd, does it? After all, I’m in line at one of the biggest coffee stores on the planet.
I turned and with a smile acknowledged the young lady standing behind me. I turned back around squeezing my eyes tightly shut and pushing down the lump in my throat. She broke away from the line and went to the condiment bar, taking three splenda though she had yet to order a drink. She stood uncomfortably close to me now.
One by one she tore the tops of the little yellow packets and poured them down her throat.
I was uneasy. People were looking at her strangely. I don’t know if it was because of her emaciated appearance or the fact that she was swallowing artificial sweetener by the pack? I knew all too well what she was doing.
She grabbed a fat-free milk and sparkling water from the cold case. I finished paying for my drink and began walking to the other side of the counter. Everything inside me said, “Say something you idiot! Tell her that she’s going to die! Tell her what she’s doing isn’t worth it!!! TELL HER!!!” (I feel rather certain that she’s heard that before.)
The young man behind the register said, “Miss. Miss! You’re $2.20 short.”
“What?” she replied. As if not to understand.
“You’re short. You owe two more dollars and twenty cents.” He said.
She began scrounging and asking if she could put something back.
“I will pay the difference.” I said.
It just came out! What was I to do?
It was the only way I could reach out to her in a way that made sense.
It was the only way to show this stranger the love she so desperately longed for.
(I don’t tell you this so you’ll think I’m wonderful. I was a thief for much of my younger years, stealing things that I can never repay. This was a small penance for years of wrongdoing.)
Her reactions were slow. I honestly don’t know how she was holding herself up.
Her head had to be difficult to support as it was disproportionately large in comparison to her starved body. She could not have weighed more than 80 lbs. and looked to be about 5’6.
As we both turned from the counter our eyes met. “Thank you ma’am. That is very kind of you.” She said in almost a whisper.
There was so much I wanted to say. Knowing it wouldn’t matter and that she couldn’t receive it, I smiled and said, “You are so welcome.” I held her stare.
Her eyes had no light. It was like staring into a dark abyss. The life that was once there had long since departed. She was dying a slow, self-inflicted death.
We walked separate ways and I said a quick prayer. “God…I don’t know her story, or even her name, but you do. You are all-knowing. If by some chance she felt hope in the few moments we shared, please multiply it and speak truth into her weary soul. Please surround her with people who seek to understand and promote healing rather than judgement and shame. Thank you for allowing me to escape the same fate….thank you for saving me from myself again and again. Thank you…”
Maybe you know someone who is starving themselves or eating themselves to death or are somewhere in-between. Maybe that person is you? It’s hard isn’t it? It feels as if there is nothing you can do. This is not the part where I tell you to “just pray about it.” It doesn’t feel like enough, does it?
My prayers during the tumultuous years in the prime of my self-destruction mainly consisted of phrases like, “God please help me. Please, please, help me.” “God, if you’re out there, show me what I mean to you. Show me that I’m not worthless and damaged.” Truth is, I didn’t know how to live life. I almost lost everything because of it. Until I learned the importance of speaking truth into my own heart and mind, my behavior
would could not change.
Sometimes all people need is kindness. Sometimes a smile will do. Other times it’s $2.20 while expecting nothing in return. We must be the change. We must. Saying the right words isn’t enough and most of the time what we think are the right words, aren’t “right” at all.
Want to make an eternal difference? Take notice of the unnoticeable and spread hope.
If you want to read an incredible story about healing and hope or want more information about eating disorders from someone who survived, visit my friend Emily Wierenga at her personal site and her blog Chasing Silhouettes.
It’s time to step off the Scale
Does this make me look fat?
One Word: Enough
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born
I’m a hypocrite
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Joy, as the mother of a daughter who has suffered from this terrible disorder, I identified with everything you said. I never see an emaciated girl that I don’t feel my heart break and get that old sick feeling of helplessness. And you’re right in saying that all you can do is pray because words simply do not penetrate; they merely drive the desperate victim away. You did exactly what I do—simply say a prayer for the girl and her grieving mother, give it to God, and hope for the best.
It is interesting now, looking at this monster through the eyes of a mother. I pray that Bella never has to walk that road of confusion and doubt. It’s amazing how many people it affects.
Wow… I agree with all these ladies here. I like what you did and I like what that person did for Jill. I consider it an honor to be able to do similar things.
That’s a great way of saying it, Mark.
It is an honor to have the means to help someone else.
I’ve been sitting here thinking about your post. I can not imagine the heart ache of all who go through this. May God help them all. I was thinking of something else too. You know how people say that you should look for these chances because you might be helping angels out? I have told God I do not want to help angels. I want to help people who need help. What do angels need from me.
Powerful story…thank you for sharing. A good reminder, it’s the little things we can do that can make such a difference. This is totally different, but on Christmas 2009, Lindy was one month old..it was only my second Christmas without Mom (and felt like the first because I think the actual first was so close to her death that it was just a blur), we were in Greenville. Anyway, on Christmas morning I just HAD to get OUT of the house. I could feel myself about to lose it in every way. And I pulled up to the Starbucks drive thru (yes, I am sad they were open on Christmas…that’s a different topic), and when I got to the window the guy said “hey, the car in front of you got yours.” I about lost it right there. As SMALL as that was probably to the car in front of me, I had NO doubt that it was Jesus just saying to me “I’m here.” Who knows what your $2.20 did for that girl too. Thanks for the reminder.
Wow. Thank you, Jill.
Thank you for sharing what was a really difficult moment and how you found hope. We really just don’t ever know…
I agree with Em! Thank you for holding her gaze with Love! Bless you!
Thank you Elizabeth!
I don’t know if it was because of her emaciated appearance or the fact that she was swallowing artificial sweetener by the pack? I knew all too well what she was doing.
oh joy. this is one of the most powerful stories i’ve read in a long time. sharing this all over the place. i love your writing, your heart… oh Lord. help this girl Joy has written about here. help others like her. it is such a dark, dark world when all you live for is splenda…
You know, friend. It breaks my heart. One of the most difficult things about it is there really isn’t anything I could have said to her. Having a daughter only a few years younger than this girl looked, it made my heart ache.
Thank you for being the example of hope, love and light.