The summer of my freshman year I was a hostess at a brick oven pizza restaurant. The pay was minimal and I didn’t make tips, but I slept till 9 a.m. and had unlimited bread rolls.
Located in Boston, the restaurant shared a plaza with a local ice cream chain, a liquor store, a CVS and a bank, and every night after my shift I would sit on the curb of the plaza path and wait for my dad to pick me up.
Usually I would call my boyfriend and I enjoyed the time I spent waiting, but one night in late July he wasn’t available to talk.
That night was a Saturday, and the restaurant had been in its usual chaos for hour after hour. In the end, I had spilled oil and flour on myself, and my legs hurt, but we all pulled through.
I walked out of the restaurant and assumed my usual perch on the sidewalk, waiting for my father’s arrival.
That night some staff were out smoking and because I had already rejected their invitation out and I needed some time alone, I moved farther down the plaza toward the liquor store.
The staff in there knew us well, and because I had been sent in once or twice to buy a lighter, I didn’t feel any less safe there. Or maybe at that age, my fear hadn’t truly set in.
Ride after ride on the subway and runs in the city had made me used to unwanted attention, and I was confident that I knew how to avoid trouble.
I sat myself at the curb of the sidewalk. The immediate 100 or so feet was flooded with light, and cars zoomed past beyond the parking lot.
A few minutes later, a couple walked into my vision, at the far side of the lot.
They walked with a distance in between each other and their pace was faster than normal. The man’s face was contorted in apparent anger, and suddenly I heard him yell something at the woman.
She looked defeated, in a black dress, carrying her heels. The couple hadn’t been in the restaurant and there was no car in sight, so I figured they must have walked from a house or apartment nearby. She looked upset, but her smudged mascara was dry on her cheek.
I began to feel uneasy. They stood about a car’s distance apart. He threw his arms in the air and continued to yell. She slowly began walking towards the plaza, towards me.
He made no move to stop her, but instead his anger was slightly assuaged. I began to see that divine providence could be placing me in a position to help.
She came up to me and asked if I had a cigarette. At this time I was the only one outside on the plaza, and I didn’t smoke. I looked at her and very sincerely apologized. She moved on inside the liquor store.
A few minutes later she came out empty handed and walked towards the man.
He saw her and began yelling again but kept his distance, and they walked away into the darkness.
The whole time I had sat frozen. Waiting. But it was too late.
Slowly a darkness developed inside of me. I had failed her. In that short span of time I was given multiple opportunities to at least ask: “Are you okay?”
All I did was reject a desperate request and step away, but I have no idea what I had walked away from.
God put a person right in my care, and I failed to follow His example and show real compassion.
So, now, this is the only voice I can give her. I can tell others that doing nothing is not an innocent decision. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and even stopped a harlot’s death sentence.
Sometimes reflecting Christ doesn’t start with giving the Gospel, but with attending to a person’s immediate physical needs.
Of course, Jesus did more than that. When he asked the weary to come to Him, He gave them more than an immediate sensation.
But, at the same time, he performed physical miracles that changed peoples’ lives on earth forever.
My slow reaction was not just a failure to help someone in need, but it was also a failure to reflect Christ.
Since then, I have only experienced one similar situation in a movie theater later that summer.
My boyfriend and I chased the couple down when they left early, the man yelling and the woman crying, but they disappeared before we could have decided whether or not to call the police.
I still pray for both women whenever they come to mind. I’ve prayed for their forgiveness and for God’s.
I pray for their safety and I pray for bravery for me and for society and for the church. So that next time any of us can step in and be a voice.