Deborah Greene was shopping in Whole Foods last year when she got a phone call that would change her life.
It was her brother on the other end of the line, and he was telling her that her father had killed himself.
Green abandoned her shopping cart in the middle of the store and fell to the floor. She wrote an account of the harrowing moment in an open letter published by the Washington Post:
“After I hung up, I started to cry and scream as my whole body trembled,” Greene wrote. “Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned.”
Then something surprising happened: other Whole Foods shoppers immediately gathered around her to attempt to comfort her and try to contact family members and friends who could help. They took her phone and asked for the passcode and the name of her husband.
Meanwhile, others discussed who could drive her home so she wouldn’t have to get behind the wheel of her car in her emotional state.
In the moment, Greene was too shocked to thank the people who decided to rush to her aid, instead of looking the other way. That’s why she wrote the open letter, she said.
“You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose, to help,” she wrote. “I remember one of you asking if you could pray for me and for my father. I must have said yes, and I recall now that Christian prayer being offered up to Jesus for my Jewish father and me, and it still both brings tears to my eyes and makes me smile.”
She said she often looks back on that day, and the kindness of the strangers the helped her gives her hope.
“I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would have done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day that I didn’t have to find out. Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life-altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured. You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity, each and every day.”
Read the full letter in the Washington Post.
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