Around 25 years ago my three close friends died in a car accident. The gal who was driving, the only one wearing a seat belt, was left with a scratch on her head. She told me this story this week that I think is too awesome not to share with all of you.
She leads a boot camp each morning at 5am. There is a woman who has joined her for the last year at her early-morning workouts who went to the same high school as Kate and Moya (two of the girls who died). This woman played soccer with Kate back in the day, and she and my friend talk about this from time to time.
My friend was presenting at a panel discussion at her son’s old middle school about bilingual education. A woman came up to her, a woman who just joined the morning workout groups, she and my friend hug, and she walked away. The woman who went to school with Kate and Moya then said to my friend, “You know who that is don’t you?” My friends said she doesn’t.
The other woman said that she didn’t want to distract my friend before she walked up on stage to present. But my friend told her it would be more distracting trying to guess what she had to tell her.
So she told her, “That’s Kate’s step sister.”
In that moment my friend had a choice: she could shirk away and hope for the best, or she could communicate and make clear who she is. In that moment she had to make a quick choice because she was about to take the stage.
So, she walked up to the woman and said something like, “I need you to know who I am. I am the person who was driving the car when your sister died.”
…and she took a deep breath and waited for the response, which went something akin to this:
“Oh, my god. I have been praying for you all these years. I have hoped that you have led an amazing life. I have tried to visualize you into having a great life. I have tried to picture you, and just prayed and hoped that you have forgiven yourself.”
As my friend told me this, she conveyed the weight that had been lifted in this moment. A weight that has been there since the accident. We talked the night she told me this story about the amount of pain we all felt when the accident happened. We talked about how we don’t believe any of our group of friends would have survived without each other.
And we finished our conversation with the fact that there was so much pain around this accident that had this magical moment happened any sooner it would not have had the same impact.
My learning during this teacher appreciation week? It is this. Love is a powerful force. It is so powerful it can heal. Thinking the goodness of people even in terrible circumstances, when we have no reason to think of goodness, is what brings unimaginable power in this world.
It brings unimaginable beauty.