This week, I have a story.
In November, my roommate and I were walking out of Target. A young girl about our age stopped us and asked for a ride home. She said her friends she had been with left without her, and she had no way to her apartment complex down the road. The sun was going down, and the temperature was dropping fairly quickly, so I said it wouldn’t be a problem (after checking with my roommate of course).
Yes, I let a complete stranger into a small confined space with me and my roommate. Terrible things could have happened. I know it wasn’t the smartest decision in the world. It would’ve been smarter to call her an uber or maybe a cab. But I’m kind of naturally naive about such things, and something about this situation caused me to set my instilled reservations aside.
We began to drive, and to fill the silence, my roommate and I talked about the upcoming projects in our classes.
“Are y’all in school?” The small voice from the back seat asked. We said we were, and she proceeded to tell us all about her hopes of attending college soon. She had dreams of becoming a nutritionist. Apparently she had been a student for a semester at a university near by, but dropped out. Her present situation was undesirable–emotionally abusive friendships, living paycheck to paycheck. She felt stuck. She felt trapped.
My roommate and I told her about the school we attend, and took a little detour to take her around campus. We encouraged her to apply, and on a whim I did something else a lot of people would consider outrageously stupid: I gave her my phone number. I really wasn’t even sure why. She just seemed like she needed help. I reasoned with myself that if things got out of hand, numbers can always be blocked. But, I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem. This girl was just lost and knew it. She had no malicious intentions. She didn’t even ask for my number. Before I even know what I was doing, I just gave it to her. It was just the little tug in your heart, you know?
My roommate and I weren’t exactly expecting her to enroll in the next semester, or even take our advice at all. But, we thought the encouragement might have been beneficial nonetheless. And, at least she got home safe and sound. I hadn’t heard from her at all, and I wasn’t really expecting to.
I learned two lessons from this situation. I learned one in the moment, and I learned one yesterday.
The first: I became so aware of the blessings that are my relationships. This girl was born and raised in the town we were in. She was incredibly sweet, and had the kind of disposition one would never expect to deviate toward intolerable enough to be so inconsiderate toward. Yet, she had to ask a stranger for a ride home that was just two miles away. With the wonderful friendships I’ve made and the incredible family I have been blessed with, I am 100% confident that no matter where I was in the country–perhaps even the world–I would have someone working desperately to help me try and get home.
The second lesson was a result of the last thing I was expecting to happen yesterday.
I got a text.
I had nearly forgotten about the whole event in the first place.
The text said a simple: “hey this is the girl you picked up from target not too long ago, I was wondering when the next classes started so I could sign up?”
I helped her through the application process, and she sent it in. Maybe she’ll decide not to enroll. Maybe she’ll chase a new dream instead. But if nothing else, that small exchange we had pushed her to take steps toward chasing her dream. And if I had listened to my practical judgment, I wouldn’t have let her into my car, and I certainly never would have given her my phone number. Sometimes compassion confronts practicality in our minds. Giving in to the compassion is terrifying and often unconventionally disruptive to one’s routine. I sometimes think I try to give in to it the compassion more than I should. I’ve been told I think too romantically about the world, and thinking the best in everyone is pretty dangerous. Well today, I’m thankful for my naivety. Never underestimate the interactions you have with people. You might be the stranger that gives them the confidence to follow their dreams. And always acknowledge the heart tugs.