Sunday, 3 March 2013

Found Joy at Starbucks

I met a woman a few weeks ago while in a Calgary Starbucks . . . she was in her early thirties and had a smile that lit up the room. Very quickly I could tell that she was perhaps the main source of energy for this particular Starbucks as Baristas and patrons alike greeted her by name.

Slowly she maneuvered towards a spot by the window. Being that my husband Don had seen her coming and had jumped up to open the door for her (he’s such a charmer) I felt I had an 'open door' to approach her.

Introducing myself, I asked her a simple question, ‘What’s your story, Tammy?’

She smiled sweetly and in an ever so slightly stilted voice told me it was long.

Thankfully, I had time.

A strong athlete, she had been recruited from Castlegar to play volleyball at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. During her first year, the eighteen-year-old was on her way to school when she was T-boned in an intersection by a young man who was not paying attention and ran a red light. Her head actually came off her spine, decapitating her for all intents and purposes.

When she arrived in the ER, they immediately called her parents and enquired if they wanted them to try and fuse her head back on (with unknown long-term complications) or take her off life support and let her go.

Her parents-thankfully unaware of the extent of her injuries-weren’t ready to let her go and told them to do anything necessary to save her life.

Now, sixteen years later, Tammy lives an exceptional life of joy. Her cane and slow walk do not define her. Nor do chronic migraines keep her home. Daily physical therapy appointments do not depress her. She is not bitter and has never had even a moment of ‘Why me, God’ but instead embraces each day knowing it is a gift from God.

She confesses that she doesn’t know God, but that she knows He has a purpose for her life and that He exists because . . . she still does. I know she’s right. That God has had His hand on her and is leading her somewhere. I am so excited to watch His purposes unfold!

Tammy is strikingly beautiful, both inside and out; her story is powerful and I was humbled to have spent a few minutes with her. When I see her so full of joy, seemingly unaffected by the constant pain, and somewhat limited mobility, it certainly removes any excuses for me to be miserable or complain.

Meeting her has compelled me to live a better, more meaningful life; it's been almost a month since our meeting and I pray and think of her almost daily.

One way she has impacted me is that I am going to stop and ask people their stories more often. I encourage you to do the same.

Who knows how much someone's story can impact your own. . . and don't we all want to live better stories?

(Tammy is on the wall of distinction at SAIT; write up can be found here

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