On a warm Tuesday night in the middle of Michigan summer, one of the biggest musical acts touring in the world made a stop at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Coldplay was just six months removed from a fun, collaborative Super Bowl halftime show, watched by north of 50 million viewers, and shortly after, they started their U.S. tour to promote their newest album. It didn't matter what day of the week Coldplay was going to play at the Palace; their presence was a guaranteed sellout. Thousands of fans would be leaving the Palace at the same time when the show/encore was over, and there I was, just sitting across the street, waiting to get people home safely.
My uber app beeped at me around 11:15, and Rachelle was ready to get out of there. Rachelle and her two girlfriends, Jamie and Dawn, had been dropped off by one of their husbands before the show, but because the husbands were on kid duty, they needed an uber back to Brighton. They were on a bit of a high after a great show, and we had a good hour of bonding time ahead of us...the first uber ride for two of the three ladies.
We discussed all kinds of things, from their favorite live performances, to their husbands/kids, to wedding preparation. Somewhere in the conversation, there was a mention of what it meant to "be open to possibilities". This got us to the story that I won't soon forget:
Jamie was the quietest of the three ladies in the car. She was 39, a mother, and a life long Michigan resident. When she was 11 years old, she lived in a stereotypical suburban neighborhood. She learned to ride her bike in the subdivision where she grew up. She got her first business experience starting a summer lemonade stand there. The neighbors were all very friendly, many of whom were often outside during Michigan summers, just shooting the breeze with one another. They knew each other, hung out with each other, and supported each other.
Jamie's neighbors "on the left side of the house" were a middle-aged couple. They, like the rest of the neighborhood, were very friendly, with the husband being a pudgier, jovial fellow, and the wife known for her baking. Jamie described them by saying, "I wouldn't say they were 'friends' with our family, but they were very nice." [For the purpose of this story, I wish I could remember their names. I'm not sure Jamie every said them.]
One night, Jamie woke up from a deep sleep in the middle of a dream. She was crying, and barely consolable. She couldn't understand it. Her mom came into her room, and trying to calm her down, she asked, "What's wrong, honey?" Through her tears, Jamie answered, "I had a dream about our neighbors. In the dream, the husband told me I needed to give this message to his wife. I can't remember why, but I need to go over there and give this message to his wife."
Jamie's mom's face went white as a ghost. "Jamie," she said, throat immediately dry, "you can't go over there tonight."
"Why not, mom? I have to tell the wife about the dream."
"Jamie, her husband died tonight. We shouldn't bother her right now. I'll take you over there in the morning."
So the next morning, Jamie and her mother went to their neighbor's house to visit the newly widowed woman. She seemed happy that her neighbors came over to pay their respects. But then Jamie spoke up. "I told her what here husband had said in my dream, and that I NEEDED to tell his wife," Jamie recounted. "I didn't really even understand what I was telling her, but the gist was there was a reference to a story that only the two of them knew about, and that he wanted her to know that he was ok." As Jamie relayed the message from her dream, both the she and widow broke down crying again, and the neighbor embraced Jamie, thanking her for telling her about the dream. After telling the story, Jamie reflected; "It was crazy. I get goosebumps thinking about that story, and it's almost three decades later."
Jamie's story blew my mind. Honestly, I don't know what I believe about spirits communicating from the afterlife. But there were two qualities that Jamie had that made the whole story possible.
First, Jamie was willing to listen. You could tell this about her before she even told the 28 year old story. In the "first person, singular voice" explosion of the last ten years, it seems everyone has a status to update, a tweet to post, and a blog to promote. (guilty) But being open to listen is rare and valuable, not just listening to what people around us are saying, but what's happening in their lives as well.
Second, Jamie was determined to speak a word of comfort/encouragement into her neighbor's life, even if she didn't totally understand it. I can't imagine what it meant to that woman to hear that from an 11 year old, but, based on her reaction, it was obviously positive and a help in her grieving process.
So... (this is the part of the piece where I assume the role of Danny Tanner in Full House)
Your friends are a gift. Your family is a gift. And your words are a gift. I know that it is easy to use my time/words to complain about things that happen in and around my life. I'm guilty of that. But if I stop and listen to other people, and I'm determined to speak words of encouragement into their world, I have the power to increase their quality of life, and indirectly, my own. If you've read this far into the piece, I can tell you that there is someone, or multiple people, in your world, who you'll interact with today, and that person(s) needs a word of encouragement/a word of comfort. You can give them what they need today, and all it costs you is listening.
I dropped off Rachelle, Dawn, and Jamie around 12:30. "Thanks for listening to our stories," they said, as they left the car. "Our first uber experience was better than we could have imagined." And with a goofy smile on my face from that one word of encouragement, I headed home.