Have you ever had someone walk into your life just as you needed them?
Years ago, we were experiencing a troubled time in our lives. One evening, my spouse and I took our then-elementary school aged son to a skating party sponsored by his school. We were standing around while our son skated.
Up walked a middle aged woman.
"Hi, I'm _____", she said, extending her hand for a handshake. (Maybe this isn't exactly what she said but let's make believe it was.) "I'm running for school board, and would appreciate your vote. How are things going for you?"
In that moment, I decided to be honest. I was so frustrated with what was happening, and didn't know where to turn. I gave her a condensed version of our situation. I thought she would just nod, exchange a pleasantry or two with me, and move onto the next voter.
I was wrong.
"I am going to give you a phone number", School Board Candidate said, digging a pad and pen out of her pocketbook (this was before the days of computers, email, and smart phones). "Please, call this woman. She has helped me tremendously. She can help you, too."
The number connected with a woman named B. She was a parent advocate. She was a single mother raising a son who had been born prematurely. Her son had cerebral palsy. Her husband had greeted his son by checking out of his son's life and his marriage emotionally and, several years later, physically. This left B as a single mother, in a time when attitudes towards those with disabilities were just starting to change. And did I mention that, during this time, she also successfully battled cancer?
She learned so much, advocating for her son (who is now in his 30s).
B wanted to help us even more than she did, but was battling other health issues. Still, she led us on the right path. Part of what she showed us was the way she dealt with the school - always positive, always seeing their viewpoint, but never deviating from advocating for her son's needs.
What she taught my spouse and I have served us both well, as we advocate for my spouse's younger brother, "B", who has a developmental disability called autism.
B told me once "not all of us walk the straight paths of life. Sometimes we have to go around a lot of curves and detours to find the path that leads to what we love."
A wise thought. She was right, too.
This acquaintance moved from this area several years ago. We didn't stay in touch that much, but we had connected on LinkedIn, and elsewhere on social media.
It was through a post by her son last Thursday evening that I found out B had died earlier in the week after a short illness. It was a shock. B had even commented on one of my blog posts last month.
She was a long distance caregiver for her own ailing mother, who died in July. She wrote poetry and music. She made jewelry and sold it.
Life is too short. This woman helped many people, I suspect, in her 68 years on Earth. And now, I ponder my own future, having lost still another acquaintance. That is what happens when you are in your 60's.
With every friend or acquaintance who becomes ill, or worse, I increasingly ask myself:
What can I do to make a difference in this world? B did it, quietly, with each person she helped.