One day, I saw the most unique woman sitting by the door at Starbucks. She was sitting at a table by herself and immediately caught my attention with her thick eyeliner, which was applied well below her lash line, dark pink blush that almost looked painted on and her bright, scarlet lipstick. Her clothes were worn and out of date, and her hair was unruly. At first glance, it was easy to dismiss her as “some crazy lady” or “just another homeless woman”. The look in her eyes, however, told another story altogether.
The painted lady sat alone at the table. No one in the store seemed to notice her yet she noticed everyone who walked by. When I first saw her, she was staring at my friend’s very obviously pregnant belly. It’s hard to accurately describe the look on her face but despondent comes to mind. The longing in her face was palpable and something in that look touched something deep within me. Suddenly, I was no longer staring at a stranger, but rather a sister-soul who had seen her share of hard times in this life. I was looking at a daughter, a sister, and maybe even a mother and I knew, instinctively, that she was hurting.
After that, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this woman sitting in the middle of a busy Boston Starbucks. I watched her unsmilingly observe everyone who walked by. She listened to the conversations and even tried to make eye contact a few times. Nobody in the store seemed to even notice her, except me. For reasons that I can’t explain, I was moved by this woman. I was overcome with the need to let her know that I knew she was there, that I noticed her.
As we were walking out of the store, I made eye contact with my painted sister. I smiled and gave her the slightest wink. She returned my favor with the kindest, warmest smile that I’ve ever seen. Her face truly lit up and for that moment, a matter of seconds, she and I understood each other perfectly.
My reason for sharing this story with you is simple; it was a powerful moment that I wish happened more often. We’ve all been programmed to judge our neighbors. It’s so ingrained that we never even bother to question the absurdity of assuming that we know everything about a person without ever speaking to them. Life is too short to spend it disconnected. If I had gone with my initial reflex, to judge, I would have missed that fleeting yet beautiful moment.