As I was leaving my subway stop last night to head home, I saw an elderly woman trying to open the door to exit. I ran forward to open it for her and was greeted with a soft, “How kind. Thank you.” Before I had made it past her, the woman had extended her arm and said, “Would you mind carrying this bag down the steps for me? It’s quite heavy, and I’m very tired.” Of course I didn’t mind, I told her, and we exchanged smiles as we walked down the stairs. When we made it to the bottom she asked me which way I was going, and I blurted out, “Can I walk you home?” She smiled and said that would be nice, if it wasn’t too much trouble, and off we went.

It wasn’t until we had walked nearly two blocks that I realized her aged hand was gently resting on mine — a lifetime apart and a world of difference silently fusing for a brief moment on a quiet street corner.

As we walked, she told me her name was Mercedes (like the car) and then proceeded to tell me about her life – of the husband she lost five months ago, how she misses him deeply but tries to find a smile each day, how she travels to Chinatown every three days to buy food because her daughter worries about her cooking, how if I hold her hand she won’t be afraid to cross the street.

When we reached her home, she thanked me over and over and told me I was her angel in disguise. I felt so unworthy of that title, for I was simply a stranger, taking her hand and walking her home.

Little did she know that she had just softly and tenderly touched my heart. In the ten minutes it took to walk to her home, she reminded me of some of life’s greatest lessons:

We need and are needed.

Sometimes it just takes the presence of another walking alongside us to give us strength.

We can receive when we give.


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