Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God - Bob Pierce
The #1206 “fiction” series continues …
It was a cold day in NYC as Gabriel stamped his feet in a vain effort to stay warm. He had just come from a meeting of colleagues and friends to thank them for completing their annual Christmas project. “Wow”, he thought, “$365,000 raised to provide Christmas gifts to 763 battered women and children hiding in shelters. My network is …….. incredible.”
His eyes started to mist up as he thought about their generosity and he stamped his feet again in the cold.
As if reading his thoughts, the lady standing next to him at the bus stop said, “Public transit always seems like a good option until you’re freezing your buns off”, causing Gabriel to laugh.
“You’re reading my mind”, he said as he turned to smile at her.
As he cast his eyes upon her, his eyes widened slightly.at the sight of her winter coat. “That’s a very nice coat”, he said.
“Thank you”, she replied as she smiled, “I’m told that it’s a very exclusive coat available in only one store in America.”
Gabriel was still slightly in shock as he looked at her. “You don’t know where you got your coat from?”, he asked.
“Well”, she said as she looked down at her boots, “It’s a little complicated and embarrassing.”
“What do you mean?”, asked Gabriel, feeling his curiosity rise.
“Well”, she continued, “I don’t know who bought the coat.”
“How is that possible?”, asked Gabriel as he sensed something developing around them.
“Well”, she said quietly, “I received this coat Christmas before last while I was in a battered woman’s shelter. My soon-to-be ex-husband had been beating me up on a regular basis and one night I grabbed my kids and left. A friend turned us on to a battered woman’s shelter and we spent that Christmas in hiding from my then-husband.”
“Wow”, said Gabriel, “I’m very sorry to hear that. So someone at the shelter gave you the coat?”
“Sort of”, she replied, “One of the staff asked me one day what would my kids and I would like for Christmas and I thought she was joking. I gave her a list and she left. On Christmas morning, the lady came into our room with a bunch of wrapped gifts for myself and my kids. When I opened my gifts, one of them was this coat.”
Gabriel swallowed hard as he listened but said nothing.
“Funny thing”, she said, “Up to then, I had the feeling that I wasn’t worth much and there wasn’t much hope for my future or the future of my kids. As I saw what was happening that Christmas, I realized that someone out there actually thought I mattered.”
She paused, took her glasses off and wiped her eyes.
“Do you know what it’s like to believe that you don’t matter?", she asked Gabriel.
“It must have been quite difficult”, Gabriel replied, relieved that his sunglasses hid his own misty eyes.
“It was but do you know what? That coat changed my Life”, she said.
“How so?”, asked Gabriel.
“Well”, she replied, “When it sank in that I mattered, it occurred to me that I had been given a chance for a new start. I took a look at my situation and realized that not only was this not the end for us but that we were worthy of everything we wanted and with that, I set out to create a new Life for myself and my kids. Here I am almost two years later and our Life is starting to take off. I have found someone who is very good to me, my divorce is almost final, I have a great job and my kids are the happiest they have been in a long time.”
She paused and wiped her eyes again.
“All because of a silly coat”, she said quietly.
“It’s not a silly coat”, said Gabriel as he swallowed hard, “It’s a very nice coat.”
“Thank you”, she said as she smiled.
There was a brief moment of silence before she turned to him again. “Do you know what the most amazing thing of all is?”, she asked.
“What?”, asked Gabriel.
“I can’t thank the person who did this for us”, she replied, “I have no idea who it is and have been told I will never know. I feel weird that I cannot thank the person who created a new Life for myself and my kids.”
“That is interesting indeed”, said Gabriel, “What would you say to the person if you know you were standing beside them?”
“Wow”, replied the woman as she contemplated Gabriel’s question, “I honestly don’t know. I think I would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that I might find myself unable to speak at all. Many times when I am walking around, I find myself imagining who of the people around me might be the one.”
She paused for a moment.
“I hope someday I get to thank them for what they have done for me and my kids”, she said quietly.
“I believe that someday you will get that opportunity”, Gabriel said, smiling.
“You think so?”, replied the woman.
Gabriel nodded but said nothing, unable to respond as he felt his emotions overwhelming him.
Looking down the street, she saw her bus coming and exclaimed, “Finally!”
Gabriel followed her gaze and said, “Lucky you. That’s not my bus.”
As the bus stopped in front of them, she turned to Gabriel and thanked him for the conversation. “I hope you and your family have a great Christmas”, she said, “Thank you for listening to my story.”
“Thank you for sharing it”, replied Gabriel, “I wish you and your two boys a very Merry Christmas as well.”
She smiled, turned and stepped up into the bus.
As she flashed her monthly pass to the driver, something occurred to her.
“How did he know I have two boys?”, she asked.
“Excuse me?”, asked the bus driver.
She turned towards the door of the bus and noticed that the man had his phone up to his ear.
“Remember that special coat we ordered for the battered women’s shelter a couple of years ago?”, she heard him ask the person on the other end of the conversation.
She gasped ……
…… the door of the bus closed …..
….. and the bus drove away as she watched the man fade into the distance.
To be continued.
© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved
Addendum - December 23, 2015
When I see videos like this (Warning – VERY disturbing content), with tens of thousands of likes and shares on Facebook, I wonder what kind of society we are creating. Is it any wonder that so many people are desensitized when it comes to violence against women? [Author note - April 22, 2016: The offending video appears to have been taken down. It was a video of a man in his twenties beating a woman in the head with a metal collapsible chair. I don't know what was more disturbing, the fact that the video was made at all, that it was distributed or that it had hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes.]
We can and must do MUCH better.
This story is a fictional musing based on an actual project. This year, my colleagues and I raised $365,000 US and purchased gifts for 763 battered women and children in shelters. The logistics are complex but the result is always worth it.
The project works like this.
We contact battered women’s shelters every Christmas and ask them to ask their guests what their needs are for Christmas. They gather a list, send it to us and we fill it. Some women refuse our request for pride reasons and many tell us to buy stuff for their kids only.
The lists are often a mix of the practical (like coats and boots) as well as fun stuff like toys and games for their kids.
We are not allowed to see or meet these people for security reasons. It is possible, from the shelter’s perspective, that we may in fact be “looking” for someone to report their location back to a batterer. I have also been told that we would recognize some of the women, being wives of politicians, well-known businessmen, entertainers and the like and such recognition could produce complexity for them.
As I thought about the conclusion of this year’s project, I wondered – “Whatever becomes of the people that we have helped over the years. Do they fall back into old traps and broken relationships or do they turn their Life around, having been shown that they matter by a complete stranger whom they will never meet? Do they look at every stranger in the years that follow and wonder if that person is “the one””
I chose to believe the better reality when this story came to mind.
Find a way to help someone in need.
You NEVER know what outcome it will produce.
This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.
While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)
This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.