53: The Strength of Vulnerability

53: The Strength of Vulnerability

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

The Strength of Vulnerability

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.

~St. Francis de Sales

I have never used the words strength and vulnerability together before. Strength essentially means great power, and vulnerability is about being open or exposed. Somehow I had not thought the two words could go together, but recently I felt the strength of vulnerability through one simple act of kindness.

It was Thanksgiving weekend and my family had decided to have our turkey dinner on the Saturday night. I had to work until 7:00 p.m. so the plan was that my mother and husband would have the dinner timed for around 7:30 p.m. The mall was quiet that evening and I was able to lock the store right at 7:00 p.m. I gathered the garbage and as I looked forward to our family gathering, I did not even notice I had not taken my usual route to the garbage bins.

An agitated young man who had missed his bus stopped me. He needed a ride and if he waited for the next bus, he’d miss his curfew and his bed at the Salvation Army. He’d be forced to sleep outside and he didn’t have a sleeping bag. He needed to get there before they locked the door.

The voice inside my head got very loud as the survival instinct kicked in and quickly reminded me of all the reasons why giving this man a ride was a very bad idea. My family was waiting, my cell phone had a 2 percent charge left on it, I might get mugged or raped and on and on. I asked him a few questions and even wished I had some cash on me, to send him off in a cab so that this problem would go away.

As these thoughts whirled through my mind, I looked into his eyes. I saw desperation, but more importantly, I saw a person. I saw him. I heard a small voice that quietly said, “He’s someone’s son.” In that moment, I just knew I had to give him a ride. The embarrassing thing was that I couldn’t even remember where the Salvation Army was.

He promised directions and offered to take the garbage bag I still held, while I called home to say I’d be another hour. As we drove downtown we chatted. He was trying to get clean and turn his life around. He got kicked out of the house he was living in. I told him to look into going back to school, unsure of what other motherly advice I could give him.

Eventually, he asked about me and found out that I was missing my Thanksgiving dinner in order to drive him. He began to cry. Perhaps his faith in humanity was restored in that moment; I don’t know. All I could think of to say was “Don’t cry for me, my dinner will be there when I get home and it’s more important that you get your bed. If I was in your position, I’d want someone to help me.”

Somehow I knew our roles could easily be reversed. His name was James. We made it to the Salvation Army on time and he had a place to sleep that night. I felt alive and our dinner was made more beautiful by sharing this story. Interestingly enough, if I had taken my usual route to the garbage, I wouldn’t have this story to share.

I am not saying we should all run out and give strangers a ride. In this case, however, in finding the strength to allow myself to be a little vulnerable, I opened myself up to a life-changing experience. I made an important human connection that I wouldn’t have made if I had taken the safe and fearful route.

~Mary Anne Molcan

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