Yesterday, step by step, He led me to just where he needed me.
My husband and I were supposed to leave to go on a walk right away, but we found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest.
Instead of taking our usual walk around the block, we decided to drive to the rail trail.
Of all the paths on the rail trail, we took the the one that lead to the Shrine.
Along the way, we were delayed because a large branch was precariously hanging over the trail, and I stopped to email someone about it.
Further down, we decided to take a different route off the trail than we normally do.
When we visit the Shrine we never stop, but follow the path right through. Because I saw the crucifix and needed to pray for a friend, I said, "Let's sit a minute,"
Of all the benches, we sat on the one near a chapel filled with candles lit in prayer.
If any one of these things had not happened,
I would have missed her.
The crucifix at Fatima Shrine
On the grounds of the Shrine, there are little chapels with a stained glass image of Christ, where you can light a candle for a special intention. Sitting there quietly on the bench I saw a woman exiting the chapel.
Many heartfelt prayerful intentions.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?" I offered.
She forced a weak smile as she glanced over at her shoulder to me and shrugged. I could feel her heart and see her sadness. I couldn't help but watch her as she walked away. There was something that tugged at my heart, urging me to reach out.
I watch for another minute feeling a connection to the complete stranger. Walking slowly down the path, she reached in her pocket pulling out a tissue and began wiping her eyes.
"I'll be right back," I said to my husband.
I walked briskly to catch up with her, all the while wondering what I was going to say. When I was a few feet away, I said, "Excuse me." She turned around wiping those same eyes, brown and wet with sadness.
"Are you okay? I couldn't' help but see your sadness when you left the chapel." Barely able to speak because of emotion, her shoulders softened and she cried, almost as if she needed some one to notice and ask. She nodded her head yes, and began to cry.
"I don't speak good english... My mother," she sputtered..."in the hospital. I come to pray."
"I'm so sorry that your mother is ill, " I said, " I understand how you are feeling, My mother just passed after a long illness. It is so hard."
My precious mother, Nancy.
"I believe in God so much. I know He is with my mother," she said.
"I believe in God too," I said. "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.' I think He brought us both to this place for a reason. Would you like to pray for your mother?"
"Oh, yes..." she said.
Closing her eyes, she lifted her hands and face up to heaven and took in every word that I prayed. When I was done, we both stood there crying for a minute.
I asked her what her name was and gave her mine.
"Is it alright if I give you a hug?" I asked.
Without a word, she reached out her arms. And there, on a quiet path in the holy shrine, two complete strangers were strangers no more. I could feel her relax in my arms; Hours? Days? Weeks? of pent up worry and sadness melting away.
"Cathy you are my angel, Thank you. Thank you." she said over and over again.
I told her I would continue to pray for her and her mother this week, and watched her turn and walk away. As I headed toward the bench, tears of gratitude flowed. I headed directly to the same chapel where she had a lit a candle for her mother and fell to my knees.
The chapel with the bench to the right where I sat.
"Thank you God, "I prayed, "Thank you for all the little things that delayed me this morning so I could be just where you needed me: for the baby bird, the right path, the hanging branch, the fork in the road, the peaceful bench that called to me all so I could be your hands and heart to another.
I truly believe that opportunities like this for a bit of compassion and kindness are all around us. What a wonderful world it would be if we keep our hearts open to where God needs us; To simply offer a smile and some compassion- like a ladle of cold water from the well - to quench what we all thirst for most days.. kindness, compassion and connection.