My name is Shaina. I’m the woman at Café 4 to whom you wrote a note on February 6th. I hope you don’t mind me publicly responding to your private note.
I know you were there, but this is a public letter, so let me create a context for those reading. I was meeting with my friend; we do this bi-weekly and it’s our way of telling our secrets to someone. It’s our way of getting honest feedback, of asking each other the hard questions from which we would typically shy away. It’s our release, and because we understand each other so well, it’s our way of expressing all the Shit going on inside with which we don’t know what else to do. You can call it accountability. Hell, I guess you could call it Cry Fest 2013 February Edition if you wanted, but it’s much deeper than all of that.
That’s what I was doing when you were having lunch. I saw you. Yeah, I did…from the corner of my eye; you were sitting nearby and eating a sandwich. I didn’t think you were listening and I guess its ok that you were. I was crying. That day was one of the most raw, intensely emotional days I’ve had in a while; everything hitting all at once, feeling like a complete fuck up, knowing all day that I could cry at any moment, but stopping myself at nearly every turn because of appropriateness’s sake. Here I didn’t hold back though, because sometimes I just can’t hold it anymore.
And letting go feels good.
I was talking about wanting to be able to let go of my past, so that I can engage in my present and feel hopeful about my future. I was crying because I feel ashamed of things I’ve done, ashamed of ways I’ve pushed people away, and sad about the ways in which I’ve been pushed away. It feels like…being found disgusting and completely worthless. It’s incredibly lonely. I was crying so hard I could barely say, “I am a good person. I am someone worth knowing. I am someone worth loving. I am someone worth a second chance,” which is a mantra I repeat to myself over and over everyday. I didn’t think anyone could hear me; if they could hear me, I thought, I’m crying too hard for anyone but my friend to understand my words.
But I guess you not only heard me, you understood what I was saying.
You finished your lunch and left, and then the waiter came upstairs and handed me your note on a napkin:
“You do not know me. I do not know your name, but a loving God does. I am praying for you.”
Thank you. Thank you for seeing me in all my mess and not judging me, but rather, you had compassion for me and prayed for me. You wrote me a note that, even though you’re a complete stranger to me, would show me that someone sees me, someone gives a Damn. I needed that. And I know it was just a note on a napkin, but it felt like a direct message from God: “I see you, I know you, and I love you, not despite your fuck ups and failures, but BECAUSE of your fuck ups and failures.”
The thing that gets me is that you saw something real and weren’t scared of it. You saw me as a person who needed something. You didn’t see me as all the things I think I am, or all the things everyone else thinks I am. You didn’t see me as a single, divorced mom, or an overwhelmed college student, or someone who is struggling with her spiritual identity and her sexual identity. You couldn’t have had any idea about the people I’ve hurt and alienated, or the consequences I deal with from some rotten choices I’ve recently made. You didn’t have any idea that I totally screwed the pooch on an English assignment that morning, or that I’d been receiving harassing phone calls all day. You couldn’t possibly know that I’m hunting for that loving God every day. You don’t know my past and you don’t know what my present is like. But that doesn’t matter.
You saw me in a very raw, very real moment, and you didn’t walk away. You saw me as a person, with a broken heart and with blood flowing through my veins and arteries, ragged breath in my lungs. It might sound hokey, but I believe you saw me as God sees me.
Not many people would do that. Not many people would look past their own judgments or preconceived notions about emotional women, or people who make huge mistakes, or people who might “deserve it,” or even people with weird haircuts. And not many people would have the guts to leave a note for a stranger while they’re on their lunch break, in a random restaurant on a random day.
Thank you for putting yourself on the line to give me that note. Thank you for not turning your back and walking away from someone who is hurting. You’re exactly what I mean when I talk about grace that gives a damn.
Shaina Bolin is an art student at UT and is a single mother to two children. Shaina is learning what it means to hunt for God amidst writing papers, attending classes, checking elementary school homework, and changing diapers.