As the tall, leggy blonde stepped out of her SUV, I couldn’t help but stare. Not so much because of her expensive clothes and exquisite makeup, but because she just seemed so out of place. The shiny, new Cadillac she drove had windows blackened to match the exterior paint and shiny chrome that you could see your reflection in. Both car and driver stuck out like sore thumbs amongst the well-worn, stain-filled sedans in the parking lot and the overworked, under-appreciated moms who drove them.
This woman’s high-heels clicked as she walked around her Escalade and opened the rear passenger-side door. I quickly noticed that the inside was as squeaky-clean as the outside, despite the newborn twins who were quietly sleeping inside. With my mind so wrapped up in the irony of the situation, I almost didn’t notice the man hoisting the giant (and quite expensive) double-stroller out of the trunk. He had quietly slipped out of the front seat while I was gawking at the giant rims on their ride.
Twins or not, it seemed ridiculous – in my head anyway – that this couple would show up for a free oil change and car wash. After all, that’s why everyone else was there. On a day set aside to help struggling single moms, the waiting room was filled with women who had real needs and real struggles. With the exception of this new arrival, there were no reliable vehicles in sight. There were no nice strollers in the trunk. There were no strapping young men waiting in the front seat.
Curious to know just how pompous and arrogant (and downright greedy) this
Hollywood couple actually was, I approached them. The consummate storyteller in me wanted every last detail so that I could tell of this family’s ridiculous behavior time and time again. With my friends over lunch. With my wife over coffee. With my co-workers at our next staff meeting.
Slipping my sunglasses to the top of my head, I casually (yet very intentionally) asked the tall blonde what had brought her to this non-descript repair shop on the seedy side of town. Her answer changed my life.
She told me that her twins had been born eight weeks prior, each weighing less than half of what a healthy baby should. After nearly two months attached to hoses and tubes and wires and needles, this tiny brother and sister duo was on their first road trip. In fact, they had been out of the hospital for less than 48 hours. Then a brief pause in the story brought tears to her eyes.
Trying not to smudge her freshly applied makeup, this new mom explained that the guy with the stroller was simply a friend of the family lending a helping hand. She then shared that, two days before she gave birth, the man who these precious babies should have one day called “daddy” walked out the door of her hospital room and never returned.
Suddenly, I wished I hadn’t moved my sunglasses.
I cried a lot that morning, and, at first, my sadness was for this heartbroken mom and her twins. For the loss. For the grief. For the futures that had been callously re-written before they even began. But, as the day progressed, the majority of my tears were for me. For my hardened heart. For my myopic mind. For my terrible tendency to glance at a person’s looks and make a snap judgment about their life.
After thirty-plus years on this planet, I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed to love on someone simply because they didn’t look or act like what I thought they should. How many chances I’ve missed to comfort or encourage someone because I was looking the other way. How many times I’ve ignored someone in need because they weren’t wearing a giant sign that said, “I’m hurting today.”
I have a new motto in life and, perhaps, it might help you as well: “Hurting people drive Escalades too.” Tape it to your dashboard. Slip it in your wallet. Leave it on your bathroom mirror. It has the power to change lives…especially yours.