The other day I was driving home from a doctor’s appointment and was nearly to my street when I noticed a woman running. This, in itself, is nothing to think twice about. There are frequently people out running in the neighborhood. So, at first glance, I thought she was just out for an afternoon run (despite the heat).
But I could see from that distance that she was carrying at least one large bag, and as I got closer, I saw that she had another one under her other arm. And as I passed her, I saw that she was wearing jeans. Though I suppose it’s possible, I decided it was unlikely that she was out there running for enjoyment or relaxation. This was a woman on a mission.
Having this realization, I thought I’d better turn the car around and ask her if she needed a ride. It was a busy time of day, and by the time I reached her, she was walking down the middle of the five-lane road, trying to cross the street, cars speeding past on both sides. I carefully pulled into the middle turning lane, trying to maneuver the minivan in a way that wouldn’t startle her and also wouldn’t get hit by any cars coming up behind me. I slowed to a stop and leaned my head out the window.
“Excuse me!” I yelled over the wooshing of the cars around us. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”
The look on her face immediately told me her answer. She needed a ride and maybe more.
She climbed into the car and immediately started to thank me over and over again. I asked her where I could take her and she responded with a question: “Well, where are you going?” Her voice was ragged, and not just from running in 90-degree weather while wearing jeans.
All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind as I realized that this woman, a girl, really, was not late for work. She was not late for class. She was fleeing. I told her that I had actually just been on my way home, but didn’t need to be back just yet, so I was happy to take her where she needed to go. She said she really just needed to use a phone, so we pulled over into a side street. I handed her my phone.
As she hurriedly started to dial, I put my hand on her arm and told her, again, that I wasn’t in a hurry. I told her to take a minute and breathe, that it was okay to just sit for a little while until she felt ready to make her calls.
After a few deep breaths, and while she dialed and texted, she proceeded to tell me a story that seems fit for a movie. But it was her real life. So, as we drove, I listened in awe as she relayed what had happened and why she was running.
At the end of her story, I was dumbstruck and could only offer a few simple words. I told her that people do crazy things and that all we can do is try our best to keep our head on straight and do what we know is right. She looked at me and said, “All I know is that I would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for people like you.”
As we pulled into the place where we’d part ways, I told her that I’d keep her in my prayers. Thanking me, she stepped out of the car. But before she left, she looked at me and told me that she’d keep me in her prayers too. I don’t know why that caught me off guard, but it did.
On the way back home, I thanked my God for the many many many blessings I have, and I prayed for this girl who’d just made me acutely aware of them.
Here’s the flip side to this story.
I have been praying for some very specific things lately. One of those is that I will be able to contribute more significantly to our family’s debt resolution plan. I have been doing everything I know how to do in order to make that happen.
The afternoon that I ran into this girl, I had a scheduled meeting with a photography client. I was very nervous about it and I had been praying that it would go well and that my client would make a purchase that would help us meet our financial obligations.
And... she did! I have no doubt that the two experiences are directly related.
In Alma 34:26-28 we read:
...Ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Part of having our prayers answered is being the answer to someone else’s prayer. And knowing that I am in this girl’s prayers has given me extra strength. Isn’t it funny to think of how interconnected it all is?
But then, of course it is!
It’s the beautifully intricate plan of Someone who trusts us to help each other. We are placed in each other’s paths very carefully. Elder Bednar, in his visit to our Stake Conference, said that he doesn’t believe in coincidences, and I am thinking more and more that he’s got the right idea.
Because, who would have thought that a young woman running down the street in jeans would be the path through which my fervent prayers were answered? Only the One who knows us all, and knows what we need.