Some people cry in their beds. Some people cry in the shower. Some people cry in their cars. Some people do not cry at all. This evening I took a drive to Barnes & Noble. I wanted to buy a book for Rachel, my greatniece. I bought a copy of Ten Good and Bad Things about My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin. I bought the book because the description included this statement:
Ann Martin takes this appealing character into new adventures through which young readers will see that good or bad, life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
That’s a serious topic, isn’t it? I have spent 18 months learning precisely that lesson since a doctor diagnosed me as having uterine cancer.
While I waited to pay for the book the woman behind me asked if I would mind telling her what I was reading. I showed her the cover. She did a double-take. I was sure she was thinking that I looked a little old for the material. She took the book from me and flipped through it swiftly.
“It’s a gift,” I said by way of explanation.
She handed the book back to me. “You don’t have any kids, do you?”
I blinked. “No, I don’t.”
She smiled. “Kids today don’t read books. They have tablets. They look at pictures. This book has what–maybe five or six drawings.” She showed me her purchases. She had two games. She waved toward the back of the store. “Haven’t you noticed? This place has become a toy store. You should get the kid a toy.”
I smiled. I like books. I especially like books without pictures. I love books that carry positive messages. I want Rachel to grow up feeling resilient. Life can be tough. I hope Rachel will prove to be even tougher.
A few minutes later I was driving home with my purchase. An older woman in an out-of-style raincoat was walking between the cars at a major intersection. Her cardboard sign said her family had been evicted and she needed help. It was about 56 degrees outside and a light rain was falling. The woman was my age. She wore a bright red wig that was looking wet and bedraggled. I rolled down my window and reached for my purse.
When she walked up alongside my car I saw that she had no eyebrows of her own and I realized that I might be speaking with a fellow cancer survivor. I opened my wallet and handed over $15. It wasn’t enough to make a big difference, but it was what I had on me at the time.
“Thank you for helping me,” the woman spoke softly. “Happy Easter.”
That’s when I thought of the book. “Do you have any children?” I asked.
The woman looked at me like maybe I was not a nice person after all. She stepped back from my car. “Yes.”
“Do you have a daughter?” I asked.
She hesitated. “Why do you want to know?” she asked.
I handed her the book. “I think it’s about making the best of bad situations,” I said.
She looked at the cover and then tucked it back into the bag. “Thank you.” Her face was wet. It might have been the rain. It might have been tears. I don’t know for sure. The light changed and I turned right.
I went back to the store and bought an extra copy of the same book for my niece. The clerk looked at me and looked at the book. “I thought you already bought this.”
“Did you lose it?” the clerk asked.
“No. I gave it to a stranger and now I need another copy for someone else.”
The clerk laughed. I think she thought I was nuts.
I drove through the ATM lane at my bank on my way home and took out some extra money, but, when I drove past the intersection where I last saw her, the woman with the red wig was gone.
As I proceeded home I said a silent prayer for all of the people who tonight are having bad experiences when they had something better planned.