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How hugging a stranger changed my life.

I embraced a stranger today. I held her, my arms surrounding her with fullness, depth, and intention.

Then I whispered the words we both needed to hear. “You are not alone.” It all started by looking up and slowing down. I was sitting in my car, catching my breath after an intense workout, and then I noticed a scene I have become so familiar with over the last few years. A mother walking with her child around an open park, a firm grasp on his hand, her eyes somewhat distant. He jumped and hummed, and flapped his arms. She tried to hold keep hold of his hand – an attempt to corral and settle him like you would a toddler, but the strength of his eight-year-old frame was no longer able to be fully restrained.

I knew in under 5 seconds of looking on that this sweet boy, full of energy and spontaneity had autism.

I saw myself in her, and far more than a glimpse of my own son. I hesitated for a moment, debating whether or not to invade her space, but something in me just knew that it was worth the risk. I approached gently, looking her in the eyes, and we spoke on the surface at first about the diagnosis and all the life changes that accompany it. But it wasn’t long before tears began to weld. We shared sentiments on feeling blindsided, castrated from society, the cycles of grief, the silent struggling with depression, and thoughts of ending it all. She went on: talking about how she has been questioning God to no avail, crying out with desperation, feeling guilty, feeling hopeless, and feeling far away from everything and everyone. She shared her immense anxiety and exhaustion from the sleepless nights, screaming meltdowns and the struggle with everyday activities like car rides, grocery runs, playgrounds, shopping malls, birthday parties – all of these “normal things” have now become insurmountable.

I nodded and cried, and nodded some more. In that moment, solutions weren’t necessary, words weren’t necessary, just being there, just standing there with her…Listening, making space for her to get it out, then embracing. Followed by a soft whisper to say. “I get it, and I am here with you.” We exchanged numbers and empathies, and said our goodbyes.

And in just one moment I remembered my Why.

Why we must walk through dark places and deep valleys. Why we must put phones down and pick our heads up. Why we must push past social discomforts, and befriend other humans who share our breathing room. Because of moments like this. This is my Why.

Written by

Tania is the founder and editor of Inkfully. She is a wife and stay at home mom of three beautiful children. Outside of these two awesome roles, there is nothing that brings her more joy than encouraging and reminding others that they aren't alone. Even if that means exposing her past, or making herself the expense of your good laugh. You can find her perusing playgrounds with her hubby & toddlers or writing in coffee shops around Seattle, WA.

Latest comments
  • Love this story, your transparency, and your heart. Beautifully written and such an encouragement.

  • This is incredibly moving and full of inspiration. I am continuously amazed by the way God leads us out of our comfort zones all for His glory. Praise God that you were able to be there for this woman in need and thank you for reminding me that the world is so much bigger than myself and my desires/needs. So touching!

    michelle | mirothebrave.com

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