Strange, Pleasant Encounters

I just had the strangest experience. I was out on the porch dead-heading my flowers, and a woman came up the sidewalk. I heard her say “Good afternoon” and I look up to see this very pretty young black woman. She has plastic tags on a lanyard, and an arm full of books, and I think “Uh oh. Jehovah’s Witness or selling something.” She engages me in talking about the hornet buzzing around my flowers, and I kind of dismiss her. Then she tells me a little story of when she was a little girl and she was picking plums back home, and disturbed a hornet’s nest, jumping out of the tree and getting many stings in the process. Again, I am stand-offish, because I am suspicious.

So, she introduces herself and shows me her card, and says she is a student of Northern Caribbean University here raising money for her final year scholarship by selling books. I knew it — she’s selling something. I tell her that I cannot buy anything, because we have no money to spare because we have all our money tied up in IVF. She says that it is wise to make investments. So I tell her that IVF means in-vitro fertilization. She says that having a baby, this is the best investment of all. And then the conversation takes a very strange, and very sweet turn.

She says that she is a student, but she is also a Christian, and so she is going to pray for me to have a successful procedure, to have an easy 9 months of pregnancy, and then to have a wonderful baby to make many years of memories with. I am really touched. It is very genuine and sweet, not phony or evangelical or anything like that. Just a really lovely thought from a very nice kid.

So I thank her, and ask her where she was from. Montego Bay, Jamaica, she says. I tell her I had spent some time working in Kingston and so we chat a bit about Jamaica. I ask her about her schooling, and she says she’s in her last year of biological and laboratory studies. She’s not too concerned about making her scholarship — she’s confident that she will, because she’s been doing this work program in the summer and she has good grades — and then she’s on to a degree in Medicine. But her heart is not in medicine; it’s not her passion, and she feels she’d do a disservice to people by going into medicine without having a passion for it. Instead, she wants to get her Masters degree in laboratory science, and to work in a lab, making bacteria and things grow in petrie dishes, she says. She is bright and delightful and engaging, and I somehow feel she will be able to do whatever she sets her mind to. I wish her all the best, and shake her hand. I tell her I wish her every success in her field, because I have come to rely on people like her through my experiences with IVF. I say I hope to see her name in bright lights some day as a lab scientist. Maybe in a scientific journal, she says.

And then she says she wants to pray for me, right here and now. It will only take thirty seconds she says, and she seems so genuine and sweet. I’m not a religious person by any means, and public displays of religion make me very uncomfortable, normally. But I tell her that I appreciate her wanting to do that for me. And so, she does. She closes her eyes and says a lovely little prayer for exactly what she said she would: first, for a successful fertilization; second, for a successful and easy nine months; and third, for some beautiful babies and a lifetime of good memories. Amen, she says. Amen, I think to myself. She opens her eyes.

I joke, But not triplets. She says, God only gives us what we can handle. She relates a lovely little saying in the Jamaican patois, and then she translates it for me into something about if a person has no clothes they can fit into a baby’s clothes. She says it means that you’ll be surprised what you can do if you really want or need to. And she says I can handle anything, and after all is said and done, I will be thankful for whatever I was given. I tell her that she is right. And again, I thank her, and wish her best of luck. She leaves, as quietly and pleasantly as she came.

Such a sweet, bright kid. Such pleasant wishes for me, a total stranger. The cynic in me thinks “and even after I told her I had no money to buy her books”.The cynic in me also goes and looks up her university on the internet, and confirms that she is what she says she is. I feel a little ashamed for being so cynical. But the welly feeling in my chest chases out the cynical thoughts just after they appear. I marvel at the kind words and thoughts of a stranger, and someone barely out of her teens at that. I wonder what made me step out onto the porch at that time, just in time to meet up with this stranger. And I am thankful. Strangely, I am thankful for the random, sweet encounter.

And the somewhat sad thing is, I don’t even know her name. I didn’t care to take note of it when she told me, and now I don’t remember it. And I wish I did. She made an impact on my life today, without even trying, and I didn’t take note of her name. Maybe that’s how it is supposed to be. But I find it kind of bittersweet that now, I am wishing successes in school, a great career, a happy life — nothing but the best for this total stranger whose name I do not know.