Whatever else can be said of me, I cry well. During the four months that my daughter, Hope, was in the hospital, crying became a habit. I tried to be strong for her sake. I bravely held her hand and reassured her that everything was going to be OK, even when I wasn’t so certain of that myself.
Somewhere to Be Alone
One afternoon I was completely worn out and needed a break. I needed a quiet place to pray, a place where I could break down and no one would notice. The only place I could find was the large bathroom off the hospital lobby. There, I locked the bathroom stall door and began to cry.
My sobs echoed throughout the tile-floored room. I blew my nose on toilet paper and flushed the toilet, hoping the sound would drown out my weeping.
After a few minutes, feet began to appear, one pair after another, outside my locked door. I began to hear voices.
“Are you OK in there?” a woman asked.
Another woman slid a paper towel moistened with cold water under my door. “Whatever’s wrong, honey, I’m going to pray for you. It’ll be OK.”
A teenager rolled her unopened can of soda to me. I thanked her and drank it. Two women offered to wait for me outside in the hall and pray with me. Another young woman with two small children told me she was sorry for whatever was wrong. Many people shared words of comfort. One person even sang “Amazing Grace.”
My bathroom stall became a holy place, where my sorrow was shared by strangers who comforted me, sight unseen, except for my feet, of course.
I finished crying. My tears had cleansed my soul and strangers had buoyed my spirit.
As I walked back to Hope’s room, a woman asked how I was feeling. When I asked how she knew me, she laughed and said, “I recognize your shoes.”
Looking down, I recognized hers too. We hugged.
Returning to Hope’s room, I looked at our situation with new faith and with the reassurance that I was not alone. God had spoken to me through the kindness of strangers.
A bathroom stall may not have a lot of room, but it’s plenty big enough for God to work wonders.
Malinda Fillingim writes from Wilmington, North Carolina. This experience happened long before anyone had heard of COVID-19.