Anne came to my desk on a fairly average Saturday in the walk-in Health Clinic where I worked.
She had been badly burned by a spill of hot soup at work, and needed another debridement at the clinic. Unfortunately, clinics like ours are notorious for long waiting periods and Anne and her son were operating on a tight schedule. I assured them that I would do my best to service them as quickly as possible, however, we are bound to a first-come, first-serve operation.
After a long wait, Anne’s name was finally called. While Anne was with the nurse, her husband arrived and left with her son. With a worried look on his face, he brought me the car keys, asking me to relay the message that he had left and she should drive herself home. I passed the message on to the nurse, and she looked at me with a horrified expression.
“Drive!?” she asked, “That woman is drunk!”
The nurse went on to share additional concerns with me, telling me about the bruises covering the woman’s body. We consulted the doctor, and when Anne came out, I spoke with her.
“Your son has left with your husband wanted you to drive home. However, we are under the impression that you are intoxicated.”
“Oh,” she replied in a thick German accent, her face wrinkled in worry, “I don’t want to drive! What should I do?”
By this time, the clinic had cleared out. I offered to call a taxi, but Anne shared with me that she was completely broke. She called her family, but no one was home to give her a ride. In despair, she sat outside on the curb, hoping her husband would return.
Stepping outside, I sat down next to her and asked, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
She smiled, surprised that I knew her native language. We had a long talk about Germany and how things were different for her here. In Germany, she shared, she had a job that paid $20 an hour. Despite the fact that she speaks four languages and is very well educated, she could only find minimum wage fast food jobs.
Anne continued, telling me how her American husband relentlessly stressed that she was “no good” and “worthless” and could never get a job. Her animosity was great, and she confided that her drinking was “an escape” and a way to deal with the rage and beatings.
The despair in Anne’s eyes was a knife in my heart. Sensing I only had a few moments in this woman’s life, I tried to think about the best thing I could do.
I ran in and called our local taxi company. I opened my wallet, and sure enough, I had exactly the amount for the fare.
Going back out to Anne, I told her that a cab was on the way. She had tears of thanks in her eyes. I explained that my main concern was for her, that she reach home safely and that her life would take a turn for the better. She promised she would try to make some changes, and I walked her to the cab.
The nurse was surprised by my actions. She didn’t condone supporting “alcoholism” and was sure I would never see the money again. I explained that it takes a ripple to start a wave, and I hoped I had started a tide of love in Anne’s life. Honestly, I never expected to see or hear from Anne again, and I hoped that my words had not rung on deaf ears.
About a month later, I got a call at work.
On the line was Anne. She asked how much she owed, and I reiterated that I didn’t need to be paid back. The next thing Anne said was a better reimbursement than any amount of money ever could be.
“Lauren, I’ve gotten a new job. As a secretary! It pays well, and I’ve stopped drinking as much.”
Her joyous sentences put tears in my eyes, and I knew that my little ripple was the beginning of a new, positive side in Anne’s life, and the overflowing spirit of love would continue to make waves.