Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sometimes it is the Little Things

This poster reminded me of my college days. I lived in a dorm for a year in college. It was quite an experience. I met some really wonderful people and I also saw the worst in people. That happens when you live with others; you really get to know them.

There was a girl named Mary who lived across the hall from me. She was super quiet and Korean. She always seemed sad, often times gazing down in our group girly talks. She didn't seem to want to engage with us. I've never met anyone that shy, or heck even Korean, or so that made me more determined to get to know her. After all, I moved into the dorm to get to know other people who's paths I wouldn't normally have crossed.

In a quiet moment one day after class, I found her studying in the hall study area and plunked down beside her. We started talking and though she seemed a little anxious at first, she soon opened up and her story unfolded.

A year ago her parent's died in a horrible car crash. Her older brother assumed parenting responsibilities, though she was nearly an adult and college bound. She's been in therapy and taking anti-depressants since the tragedy. I remember a tear streaming down her cheek as she told me her story. I was struck by her honestly and sadness. It was heartbreaking. I hugged her and said that, "my door was always open" (and usually it was because my crazy art projects seemed huge and hard to work in a such a tight space). So, drop in if she just wanted to hang out or anything.

It was week later when I was returning from my late afternoon class that I found Mary sitting in the hallway of our dorm. She was studying. "What's up? Why are you out here?"She looked up from the floor and once again I was struck by the sadness in her eyes.

"Sarah (her roommate) has Dave over."

"Yeah, so," I said.

"She's in our room with him and I can't get in."

"What? Are you serious?"

"She does this when she wants to be alone with him. She locks me out somehow. Pushes furniture against the door or something. I can't get in."

"Ok. Well...come in our room to study. I've got popcorn and it will be dinner time soon."

So, she came in and we hung out for the evening. I, unlike Mary, had a totally amazing roommate who was so much fun to be around. We all ended up having a great time that evening, despite the circumstances.

That year, my roommate and I ended up hanging out with Mary quite a bit and not just when she was locked out. She was quiet but had a wicked, sarcastic sense of humor when she felt like talking. And she never passed up the chance to be silly with me and my girlfriends.

Time passed by and I didn't return to dorm life the next year. And as so often happens, I lost track of Mary when I moved into an apartment. I graduated and ended up taking a job on that same campus I graduated from four years earlier.

One morning, I went down to the student cafeteria to get a cup of yogurt for breakfast. I was waiting in line to pay for it, when I felt someone lightly tap on my shoulder. I turned and to my surprise it was my friend Mary.

"Hi. Chris," she said.

"Mary! How are you?"


She looked amazing. Completely gone was the sadness I had become accustomed to in her dark brown eyes. She seemed so happy. I mean she seemed to glow. She had put on some much needed weight and looked healthy too.

"You look great! What are you doing here?" I said.

"I'm in graduate school."

"That's awesome." I said.

We both paid for our food and sat down to catch up. She told me about her life and what was going on and I babbled on about mine. Then she said the one thing that I will never ever forget; the thing that struck me as life changing. She thanked me for being her friend when she desperately needed one. She said how much of a difference I had made in her life. She was doing much better physically and mentally and though there were still plenty of sad days, they were fewer and easier to cope with now.

I was dumbstruck once again by her honesty. Tears welled up in my eyes and I was at a lost for words. "You're welcome" was about all I could muster and that seemed especially lame. We talked for a little more and I realized that I needed to get back to work. So we hugged and said our goodbyes.

I think about her today and wonder where she is and how she is doing. I've not had any luck finding her on Facebook but I continue to look. I want to reconnect with her. I wonder if she's married and has a family of her own.

We both grew up a lot that year. We learned about others, sometimes the bad parts you'd rather not see, and how important it is to help others when you can. And I learned that sometimes it is the little things that occupy the biggest part of our hearts.

Savor the details.