In 1980, my friend invited me to shop for her wedding dress at Running-of-the-Brides-One-Day-Sale at Filene’s Basement in Manhattan. Once a year, hundreds of brides-to-be would rummage through drastically reduced designer wedding gowns in search of the perfect dress.
It was pure pandemonium.
Continuously, a merchandise stockman wheeled in jam-packed garment racks through the crowds of anxious shoppers. He confidently called out, “Comin’ through!” Each time, the sea of women parted as he advanced at a steady pace to drop off additional gowns.
I should have been absorbed in the beauty of the fabrics and rock-bottom bargains. Instead, I marveled at the stockman’s ability to maintain composure amid complete chaos.
To this day, whenever I maintain calm amid a storm, I think of that stockman. I want to find him and say, “Excuse me, Sir, you don’t remember me, but 41 years ago in Filene’s Basement …”
When I initially met my husband’s large extended Italian family, his mother, grandmother, and aunts promptly invaded the kitchen and tied starched, ironed aprons around their waists. Having gone to the beauty parlor that morning, not a hair on their heads moved. They chopped, chatted, and prepared platters of delicious homemade food for a house full of hungry relatives.
I was mesmerized, partly because my mom didn’t wear aprons, but mostly because these perfectly coiffed women were collectively operating in their element. Their poise amid the noise was golden.
Periodically, a man named Will configures our computers. Years ago, he entered our office looking terrible. It was none of my business, but I breached professional conduct codes and asked, “Are you OK, Will?”
He said: “My daughter was recently diagnosed with leukemia. It feels like lightning struck.”
I privately committed to pray for Will’s daughter every night. Months went by and Will came to address a software issue. As he was leaving, he mentioned that his daughter was in remission and able to leave the hospital.
Seasons passed and every night I prayed for Will’s daughter, not knowing how she was faring. I had a peaceful, almost joyful sense that she was well. I looked forward to our next computer glitch to hear the good news.
Eventually the need to call Will arose. He answered with a cheerful voice and arranged our appointment. Just before hanging up, I asked, “How’s your daughter?”
He answered, “She passed away four months ago.”
Failing to maintain composure, I whispered, “I am so very sorry,” and quickly hung up the phone.
Will arrived the next day. From across the room, I watched as he sat at my desk, fixing the computer. I wondered how he was able to function in light of losing his child. Completely humbled, I asked, “How are you doing all this?”
Wearily, yet resolutely, he replied: “Bernadette, you have to ask yourself. Is God faithful? Yes. We know he is faithful. So, in some way, this is better.”
I was recently studying the Hebrew and Greek words for “saved.” They are “yasha” and “sozo.” To my surprise, I discovered it most closely translates to English words referring not to the future, but to the present—to free, defend, help, restore, and deliver.
Life is hard for everybody, but some inspiring folks hold on to their defender, helper, restorer, and deliverer while advancing through the chaos of life at a steady pace calling out, “Comin’ through!”