I met a new hero of mine a couple of weeks ago. My newest hero is not a political figure, nor a high-profile leader, nor anyone that the media would qualify as a hero. My hero’s name will probably never make the newspaper or the ten o’clock news. I did not meet my hero at a rally or a big gathering and may never see my hero again on this planet. I met her in the aisle at Sally’s Beauty Supply where we were the only two shoppers.
When I left home that Thursday morning, I had no thought of meeting someone who would impact my life with her presence. My new hero’s name is Rosa. I don’t even know her last name. Only a few feet separated us in the aisle at Sally’s as Rosa sorted through the fingernail polish in the sale bin and I looked for a new fingernail file that passes airport screening without getting me arrested. Rosa approached me with three bottles of nail polish and asked, “Which of these do you like best?”
Diplomatically, I replied, “Oh, I think they’re all very pretty. Which do you like best?”
Thus began our conversation which gave me a chance to look into Rosa’s face and hear her story. She was a beautiful woman, shorter than me and a bit frail. The deep lines around her mouth suggested countless smiles in her sixty plus years, and the deep creases in her forehead and around her eyes revealed her acquaintance with sadness, too. A brightly-colored floral scarf wrapped neatly around her head hinted at weeks of chemotherapy and Rosa’s second encounter with breast cancer. She explained that three years ago when she was first diagnosed, she basically quit living for a while and just focused on herself. She went on to tell me that it was the most miserable time of her life, not because of the cancer, but because of her self-centeredness. She explained she’s handling things differently this round.
Not long ago, Rosa’s cancer returned and almost simultaneously her husband had a massive stroke. He now resided in a care facility where Rosa spent every afternoon with him after she finished her own treatment. Rosa wasn’t buying the nail polish for herself. She was choosing polish for the elderly women she has met in the care facility — women who get very little attention outside of professional medical care. Rosa sat and talked with them, polished their nails, brushed their hair, and brought human touch to some lonely women. In the midst of her own troubles, she was reaching out to others. The smile on her face and the light in her eyes showed her joy in serving.
I couldn’t help but ask her, “Rosa, you know my Jesus, don’t you?”
Her smile broadened. “You know Him, too?”
I knew it. No one can hide knowing Him, so I asked if I could give her a hug, and she answered with an embrace. We must have looked a bit strange, two shoppers, with silent tears, hugging in the aisle at Sally’s. Rosa’s story was a powerful message for me. I kissed her on the cheek, and we parted.
I paid for my nail file, and then I handed the clerk a twenty-dollar bill and told her to use it to pay for Rosa’s nail polish and to give her the change if there was any.
I was halfway to the cash register when I heard, “You didn’t tell me which color you think the ladies will like best.”
“I don’t think the color matters, Rosa. I think what matters most is that you touch them, just like you touched me this morning.”
Only her beautiful face was visible as she leaned from behind the store shelves and said, “God bless you, Phyllis.”
I said, “He already did,” and I winked at the cash register clerk.
Image: CC Flickr Frankieleon