I looked out the window and saw her lying in the street. Pink-skinned woman wearing a teal tank top, black running shorts, grey tennis shoes – her limbs lifeless on the tarmac.
An SUV and Mini-Cooper book-ended her body. A man in a red shirt with a beard stood above her while a female pedestrian wielding a cell phone hovered close by. I scrambled to make sense of this scene.
“Do you know what happened?” I stammered to no one in particular, and then pointedly at the stranger sitting across from me in the coffee shop’s window. We were two people poised before our computers, working ever anonymously with now an almost front row seat to this story, that begged our attention, engagement, our eyes.
“Did you see what happened?” I asked again.
With an equal intensity and sense of human concern, this stranger responded. “I didn’t see the accident, but I believe she was riding her bike and was thrown when that car door opened and struck her. I saw them park her bike there.” He pointed to a ten-speed 7-10 feet from our window posts.
I thought to myself, “Good God.”
I’ve been crying a lot lately. At least once a day something strikes me in a such a way that tears come to my eyes and for a moment I’m without words. I look, I feel, I wonder, I pray. I cry.
This woman lying in the street, moving nothing save her lips, inspired such a physical, emotional response in me.
Reading an email about how my 6 year old cousin has been having conversations with her deceased grandfather, made me cry.
Learning on Facebook about cathedral bells ringing in Washington, D.C. after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, made me cry.
Hearing a teenager talk about visiting the location at the Mall of America where her friend took his own life, made me cry.
Tuning into a young couple share their plans to take a year and tour organizations in seven of our world’s most in-need communities, made me cry.
I listen. I read. I watch. I wonder. I imagine. I weep.
Who can ever know the full story of any human being? The events that shape their life, inspire their choices, impact their presence on this planet? How can any one person comprehend the fullness of another’s experience, what their journey has been, and how it gives rise to their deepest longings, desires, dreams — their faith and actions? I am not sure it’s possible; but I do try. I treasure the tidbits of insight that are afforded me in any intimate encounter where a human narrative is revealed. As part of my contemplative practice, I pause to appreciate with my whole heart what is transpiring in a given set of circumstances. And often, this leads me to tears.
As I pause this day to reflect on the woman in the street, her bicycle, that SUV and Mini-cooper, their drivers and the onlookers to this scene, I offer up a prayer for the well-being of all.
I invite you to join me in this contemplative activity. What do your eyes currently take in? What demands the attention of your heart? What makes you weep with joy or sorrow? What are you called to bring before God?