Mary was crying.
It was the quiet kind of crying that happens when you talk to a group about your your life. About being beaten. About escaping with your life. About marrying and helping save lives. About losing your husband three months ago. It was the quiet crying after you sit down, grateful to have survived it all. Aware of a peace from God. And still aware that you are the one to stack the plates the kids have left as you sit alone at a table for eight.
It’s okay, you were the speaker. But God and role aside, you are still alone. And there are tears.
Lori was watching.
I saw her get up from a table of eight, full of people who had just listened to Mary. She walked around the edge of the room, excused, of course, as she headed to the restroom. And came out almost right away. Carrying a box of tissues.
She walked to Mary’s table, handed her the tissues, touched her shoulder. She stacked the plates the kids had left and took them away. And returned to her table.
It took two minutes at the most. It was small.
But at that moment, Mary was acutely aware of loss, of alone. She is part of something huge, changing real lives at great risk, but she is also the only mom to three small children and at that moment needed a tissue and a touch and a table being cleared.
Although we shy away from the idea of organized religion, James writes of a pure kind of religion: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Sometimes that’s as simple as tissues.
I published this several years ago. I don’t remember who Mary was, who Lori was. But they do.