Recently, I was outside enjoying a hot dog and a strawberry shake at a local ice cream joint.
It was beautiful outside– warm enough for shorts. I had planned to do some writing in my journal.
And then life broke into the narrative– something too real.
A woman ran up to me at my table in the parking lot, desperate. She was wearing large, dark sweats in the heat.
“CAN I USE YOUR PHONE? I JUST NEED TO CALL MY HOUSE, CAN I JUST MAKE A CALL?”
Her volume matched her fear.
Wary, I didn’t know what to do. I was worried she might be on drugs– was this just a ploy?
There were three teenage girls who had been chattering at the table next to me. They went silent and watched my reaction.
I looked at the woman with concern but wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Please,” she begged. ” I JUST GOT AWAY FROM MY HUSBAND. I need to make sure my SON is alright.”
She was such a mess, there was such pain on her face. I knew she was telling the truth.
“Let’s go inside and see if they’ll let you call,” I said. “I’ll go with you.”
She didn’t seem to believe me, but headed toward the doors anyway.
She was still very loud– I didn’t want her to scare the woman behind the counter. She started to rave again, but I made eye contact with the woman and asked calmly if she could use the phone. The cashier consented and brought the phone over to a side booth.
The woman climbed in the booth and dialed, gripping the phone. She was kneeling, facing the phone.
“He’s not answering,” she said. Tears. I saw the bruises on her face- slight, but still there.
I asked her if she wanted a ride to the police station– no.
Then I suggested another local place– she asked what it was.
“They have counselors,” I said. “They can help you decide what to do.” I told her the location– about five minutes drive.
She nodded and went with me to my car. I cleared my junk out of the front seat, turned off my music.
I asked her name, and introduced myself. I will call her Jane., to shield her identity.
As we drove, I told her, “I’m glad you got away.”
She was frozen in thought. As we neared our destination, she talked a little bit more– frantically.
We pulled up and I parked. We walked in and I buzzed the secretary.
I explained that Jane needed to speak to someone in Groundwork (the domestic violence program.)
The woman nodded and buzzed us in.
Luckily, there was a counselor available immediately.
Jane sat down and I got her a paper cup of cold water. She was so agitated she didn’t even touch it.
Minutes later, a counselor appeared and they left together.
I had no idea how long they would be gone, what I should do next.
Within 10 minutes, Jane re-emerged– thoughtful. She finally drank the water in one gulp.
We left together– I was scared. Did she need a ride home? Now what did I do?
On the steps outside she said that she just needed to take a walk for a little while.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “I’ll come back here but I need to think first.”
It was clear she wanted no further assistance from me– she wanted to handle this on her own. Proud.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You’ll be in my prayers, Jane,” I said. She walked away, deeply concentrating.
I went back to my car– and saw the big statue of the Blessed Mother adjacent to the building, over to the left.
She was high up, watching from a ledge in a stone wall. How many broken women and families had prayed to her?
There was a wooden bench in front of it– I knelt and asked The Blessed Mother to protect Jane and her family. She’s been in my thoughts. I hope she is safe– that she will find the encouragement there through staff that is needed to protect her family.
I’m sharing this story because I hope that you will include this woman and her family in your prayers as well. God was watching out for us both. I’m glad that I was able to help, and that I knew where to take her. I
I wonder, how many people did she have to ask before me? How many people didn’t want to get involved?
That day I had been thinking about things that frustrated me– bills, things I need to clean up at home. And then God reminded me that my problems are very small compared to this woman.
All Jane wants is a safe place, the opportunity to save herself and her son. She is making one of the most important decisions of her life, no doubt. I can’t imagine how scared she must feel. NO one, woman or man, should have to deal with such questions.
But they do, every day.