I encountered a situation at work the other week that actually broke my heart. I didn’t know what to say or do.
I had to help a woman cancel a reservation she had for a room with a wedding next year. When I came out to the desk to help her, I had never seen anyone look more distraught and upset. At first, I immediately thought it had to do with the cancellation policy. If only.
In tears, the woman begins to tell me that she needs to cancel this reservation, because she made it for her daughter who is a drug addict. Her daughter, she said, had been improving, until suddenly, five days earlier, she had disappeared without a word. Since then, they had heard nothing.
The woman stopped, catching herself, before quietly telling me as much as she wanted to hold onto hope, she knew there was a large chance that her child might not even be alive anymore.
I just stood there, speechless, and fighting off tears as I watched this woman’s world shattering around her.
What do you say to something like that? No idea. So I re-explained the cancellation policy, apologizing that there was nothing I could do about the 25$ administration fee. Had I had an extra 25$, I would have paid it myself.
The woman said she understood, and it wasn’t a problem. So I wrote down all the information she needed for proof of the cancellation. As she stood there trying to compose herself, all I could think of was how awful I was for not being able to say or do anything. I so badly wanted to tell her I would be praying for her, and for her daughter’s safe return, but I was scared of causing offence (or worse, getting in trouble for talking religious stuff at work.)
She turned to walk away, and I realized, if someone was going to punish me for providing some comfort to a woman, then so be it. I’d rather face that, then have this woman leave wondering why I would be so indifferent to her situation.
So I called out to her, and told her I would be keeping her family and her daughter in my prayers, and added that if her daughter returns safely home, it would be no problem to reinstate the reservation.
She burst back out in tears and thanked me for holding onto hope for her.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since then. How much I just wanted to be able to stop and pray with her right there, to cry, to share in her tears and her heartache, so that she wouldn’t have to do it alone.
I can’t say I’ve ever experienced that before. Seeing a parent’s devastation as they realized that their child might be in danger, dead, or otherwise harmed, and having no hope that they will escape it. It broke my heart.