“I like your haircut,” I said to her as she approached me. The bangs were new and they framed her face well.
She stood in front of me in her state issued uniform, her expression a mixture of surprise and feeling awkward. She shifted her weight, offered a half grin and looked down. She didn't know how to receive the compliment. Maybe because she’s not used to getting them. Maybe because she doesn’t believe them. Maybe both.
“You seem to be doing better recently,” I say to her. Her father died unexpectedly a few months prior. The last thing she needed was another reason to be angry. She already had enough reasons and anger seemed to be her default. But not now. Now all that seems left is the sadness and it has softened her somehow.
I know all of this because I know her details. All her life she has longed for someone to care enough to know.
“I haven’t had a ticket for a whole month,” she says.
She looks down again. And suddenly I know this is no ordinary moment. This is an opportunity. I know what the little girl inside of her wants and needs.
Notice me, she whispers. Tell me that I’m good.
I am not going to miss the moment.
“That’s a REALLY big deal,” I say to her with exaggerated tone. And if you knew her story like I do, you would agree.
I tell her how proud of her I am.
She nods her head and suppresses a grin as she walks away.
I believe in her. On her best day and on her worst. Because I know her details. I have seen the greatness inside of her. Her gifts. I know the painful places in her heart where she has been dropped, abandoned and victimized. I know what she hopes for her future. Her fears. Her daughter’s name.
I want to know these things. Something inside me tells me that's the way it should be. That we should spend more time learning the details of a person’s story. Details are important. They give us insight to the whys. They help us enter the story with compassion and grace.
Your best day and someone else’s best day will look very different based on where you are in the journey of who you are becoming.
It’s so important to look for the hints of progress along the way and to celebrate them. People tend to become who we believe them to be.