Surrounded Yet Alone

We saw you at the stop light, and Lexington’s afternoon traffic being what it is, kept pace alongside you for the next two miles. You cried the whole time. Not big heavy tears, but the steady sobbing of someone with nothing left inside.

It’s hard, these moments of human disconnection, when you can clearly see someone in despair, but can’t do anything about it except send up a quick prayer. I don’t know your name, but asking God to comfort “the lady with the blond pageboy in the silver Honda thing” was probably specific enough.

My husband said he hoped your crying was to do with the fender on the front of your car, which looked recently and only slightly crumpled, but he also thought what I did–that you looked as though you’d been weeping for a considerable amount of time. If you’ve lost something–a loved one, a marriage, a job–we hope you find solace as and when you can.

There isn’t much any of us can do in those moments when we’re caught in the cross-hairs of each other’s sight lines, when we see something we know we ought not to be seeing, but at the same time we can’t look away–not so much from voyeurism as the common instinct to comfort a fellow human in need.

In part we wanted to make you happier because we ourselves were so happy: four friends in a car, Jack and me with our Frankfort pals Charles and Mary, Mary and I both newly published authors with books doing well in the charts, on our way to give a signing and book talk at the massive and gorgeous Joseph Beth Bookstore in Lexington Green Mall–a place in which new authors dream of being allowed to sign.

We couldn’t do anything for you, and you never looked ’round. Likely the grief was too deep for you to care that you were being watched. If we had done as Jack suggested and hopped out to knock on your window, ask if you were okay, we probably would have scared the shit out of you. We didn’t want that.

So we left you, crying in your driver’s seat in the madness of the 5:30 Lexington traffic, surrounded by humans encased in steel, and you so utterly alone. We’re sorry, and we hope whatever it is passes quickly.

Sometimes, that’s the best we can do for each other, isn’t it?

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Surrounded Yet Alone

  1. There are times that we are in these kinds of situations. Also alone in our misery not being able to help. What do you do? Well number one your empathy alone makes you shine above most. Your wanting to do something, anything to help her out but you did what you could at that moment in time. You prayed for her to find comfort.

  2. Tracy Grondahl

    I will pray for her too Wendy… A few months ago I saw an elderly man (looked to be in his 80’s or 90’s) sitting on his porch with two younger women. He was crying so pitifully, and looked so heart broken that I wanted to stop, run up to his porch…or waddle, which would have been a more accurate description for my style of on foot transportation, put my arms around him and ask him what I could do to help. Like you, however, I decided against it because I really didn’t want to explain to the cops that my intentions were based on compassion and not driven by insanity or some kind of front porch robbery. That scene still haunts me. I wonder why he was crying, and want so much to comfort him. So I know how you feel Wendy, it’s so hard to see people like that, and not be able to help them.

  3. Tony

    To share another’s pain or joy, whether they’re aware or not, is not only an sincere exhibition of empathy, it’s the deepest expression of our love for one another as human beings and children of God. Prayer is an act of graciousness, kindness and solidarity. From my perspective you we’re more involved in sharing another’s life than you may ever know. Good for you and Jack – good for and good on you. I lifted a prayer for the woman simply because you cared enough to share – imagine how many prayers are being lifted before the light simply because you shared this story.

  4. Teresa Ward

    Wendy, Thank you for your compassion and sympathy. Empathy can only go so far before it turns into forgetfullness. This is a wonderful, beautiful ability to show and feel compassion for this woman, instead of taking the “Seinfeld” approach and bandy about jokes of her suffering. I started out my career as a nurse and only handled three months on pediatrics. My sympathy for these children and babies far outweighed my empathy. This is a beautiful thought for Christmas. God bless you every one! Teresa

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post. I have been on this woman’s side, alone in my car, broken hearted and unable to control my emotions even though I knew I was not truly in privacy. I have hope that there were people like you watching over me during those times, and not just people trying to look away and thinking I was a total nutter. Thanks again. I only hope she knows something that my mom always says to me in times of trouble. This too shall pass…

  6. Teresa Ward

    Thanks to all the people who left lovely, thoughtful comments here. I wish there had been a great many more. I was at the doctor today and the song, “I Believe There Are Angels Among Us,” by the OakRidge Boys came on and I thought of this post and I also thought, “I certainly hope so!”

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