When GraceWorks bookkeeper Shelley Johnson saw the woman crying in the waiting room, she felt an instant contact.
“Something drew me to her. She was like a friend of mine, or even like me, even though I didn’t know her. I don’t know — she was just so sad,” Shelley said.
Shelley stopped, took the woman’s hands and asked if she was being helped.
GraceWorker Linda Decker looked out and saw the two women.
“Shelley was kneeling down in front of her, holding her hands – so that she was looking down at Shelley, not looking up. That was powerful,” Linda said.
As soon as Shelley spoke to her, the woman burst into tears and blurted out her story.
Her husband had left her to pursue a relationship he had already started with another woman. She had previously lost her job because of a disabling heart problem. Without her husband’s financial support, she lost her house. A friend took her in, and she was living in a room of that home with a microwave, refrigerator and hot plate.
She also talked, mom-to- mom, to Shelley about her worries about her grown daughter.
“She said ‘What did I do wrong? Why am I here? I’ve always gone to church. I’ve always prayed. I don’t understand why this is happening to me,’” Shelley said. “She used to be the blesser. She packed food boxes, and she blessed other people. And now she needed help. She was so embarrassed to be there, but she didn’t know what else to do.”
As GraceWorks’ bookkeeper, Shelley has little reason to go through the waiting room, and she doesn’t very often. That will change, she said. She will walk through that room, and she will talk to the people she sees sitting there. The next morning, she offered up the woman in prayer at the daily prayer time before GraceWorks opens.
“She taught me something that day. I learned a lesson,” Shelley said. “I could see myself in that spot. I could see one of my friends in that spot. I won’t forget her. I pray for her.”
The primary assistance GraceWorks gave the woman that day was a shopping cart of food. But the intangible support may have been more valuable.
She found friends to listen to her story and to give comfort.
And that’s called grace.
— By Kathi McClure