Recently I was reminded of a woman I knew years ago. I was 18 or 19 at the time. I don’t remember how old she was. Very old I’m sure. The only detail about her I remember for certain was that her name was Jewel. And I remember how her shoulder length silver hair felt when I brushed it, and how her voice sounded when she sang old hymns with me through her missing teeth.
I met her at my student ministry program in college. I was required to serve in one of a handful of places. I chose the nursing home. Probably because my mom had taken me to visit the elderly when I was young and so it was familiar to me. We were encouraged to find a few people to visit regularly. I found Jewel, and that’s what she was.
I visited her and her roommate for a semester. Jewel was bedridden, frail, and tender. She would hold my hand and pat it. She cooed and smiled when I spoke to her and she loved for me to brush her hair. Her roommate was her opposite; I don’t remember her name. I came to love Jewel. When I heard some months later that she had gone to be with the Jesus she loved I cried.
She was my first big girl love. What I mean is that growing up my mom had taken in children and adults needing love, and certainly her fair share of animals. She took us to the food pantry and nursing home. I liked going and I learned kindness from her example. But Jewel was the first person I had independently sought out, had invested in on my own because I wanted to. She had touched me and I had felt compassion for her. She changed my world. I knew it at the time, I knew she was leaving a mark on my heart every time I saw her. And even now two decades later I can remember the exact sound of her voice as she tried to sing her favorite hymns without any teeth. I can see the pale blue nightgown she wore. She left her imprint.
She taught me all those years ago that every person’s life is a story waiting to be read. Every person wants to be seen if we’ll just see them. She was a mile marker, she began my quest to see those forgotten.
Today I’m still searching, all be it at times haltingly, scouting for jewels. Each new story impacts me and shapes my heart.
What about you? Who is shaping your heart, who’s story is leaving it’s mark on your life?