On Tuesday, I went running and saw a dog. It was white and tiny with super curly hair, and it was just chilling in the grass and marking it’s territory. I stopped and started petting the random dog. It came straight to me and sat down, smiling with its tongue out as I continued to pet it.
It turned out to belong to one of my friend’s neighbors. She was looking for him because she had let him out earlier, and happened to find me petting it.
We knew each other but not really.
“Hey! You go to Davis right?” She asked me.
“Yeah! Sorry for petting your dog,” I said.
“No, it’s totally fine!”
We started talking. Slowly, she began to unravel with me what had been going on in her life. She had transferred schools every year of high school as she couldn’t find a school where she felt she fit in, and was now in her senior year at yet another new school. Last year she attended the same high school as me, and I had sort of known her because I had graded some of her papers when I was a T.A. But she continued to share with me what was going on underneath the numbers. She opened up about her harsh parents, but mostly how her mom would yell at her and sometimes hit her. She told me she wasn’t really trying in school anymore and was unsure of she wanted to do. She opened up about having to see a therapist, but then went on to explain how her therapist avoided her problems and made her feel like a burden. She felt like her therapist wanted to just put her on meds and get rid of her. She had recently stopped seeing that therapist, thank God, but still felt like there was something wrong with her. And as she continued to share her life with me, my heart just broke.
Chowder, the dog, was shivering so she picked him up and we walked around the neighborhood and continued talking. She played ice hockey at the ice rink I used to figure skate at. She felt alone and like everyone was giving up on her. Her pets were the one thing that kept her happy. I was at a loss for words, so I shared my testimony with her. I told her that I used to be broken and I used to try to put my self worth in so many things, but then God transformed my life in ways I never even knew possible. I told her about my healing high school experience, the community I found in college, and the miracles that happen to me all the time. She was open to it.
“You are so loved,” I stressed the whole way. “And I believe in a God who is always just dying to show us how much He loves us. When we work from a place of knowing how much we are worth, life is just so much more meaningful.”
I walked her back to her house where she showed me her chinchilla (it was so freaking cute omg). She let me feed it and my heart just exploded in happiness. About an hour and a half had passed since I had left the house to go for a run.
“Hey, I should probably head home now, but can I pray for you before I go?”
So under the evening sky, I laid a hand on her shoulder and began to pray. “God, I really believe it was no accident that we met today. I pray that you would reveal to her that she is so loved. That there is so much more worth living for than what she thinks. That you want to heal her and take away her pain. That the plans you have for her are more than she could ever dream possible. God, I just pray if there are any fears in her heart right now that you would just replace them with peace. I pray she would feel your presence right here, right now. That you would meet her right here where she is at, and meet all of her needs.”
“Amen.” We both looked up.
“Wow. Thank you. You should talk to one of my Christian friends. You would be a great role model for her,” she said.
I smiled. “Thank you for letting me pray for you. So glad I ran into you today.”
I ran home and texted her my therapists’ info as I had promised. To follow up I said, “If you ever need anything, I’m here. Keep fighting until you find something beautiful and worth living for.”
But I text a lot of people that, hoping they will text me when something happens. I didn’t think she would actually reach out to me.
The next day I met with the teacher I T.Aed for first semester of senior year for coffee and we catched up on what God had been doing in our lives. Later that evening, I got dinner with a bunch of my high school friends and seeing them made me so happy. I was taking my friend Bri home when I missed her house. We wanted to talk more anyways, so I just kept driving in circles until we had sufficiently caught up on life. We had both grown so much since we graduated.
Around 10:30p.m, I got a text from the girl I ran into the previous day asking me if I was still up. I was just about to leave Bri’s house.
“Yeah, I’m at a friend’s house but I’m coming home now. What’s up?”
“Can I stay at your place tonight? I’ll pay you and leave the next thing.”
My heart skipped a beat. I called her.
“Hey. What’s going on?”
“I’m scared my mom is going to kick me out of the house,” she said, distraught. “So I left before she could kick me out.”
“Where are you right now?”
“Just in the neighborhood.”
I paused for a second, trying to gather my thoughts.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m going to get home, and then can I call you again?’
“Okay cool. Hang tight.”
I was scared. So once I knew where I was on the road again, I asked Siri to call my dad.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Hi. First, I know it’s kind of late so I’m just letting you know that I’m on my way home and I’m not dead. Second, one of my friends is in a crisis and asked me if she could stay at our house.” I explained the situation a little bit more.
“Well, I think if she doesn’t go home that’s going to cause even more problems. I think you should try to convince her to go back home. If she really can’t, I don’t care if she stays at our house. But that’s like kidnapping her, if her parents don’t know.”
“I think so too. She said she’s on the street, so I was going to pick her up and talk to her more for now.”
“Sounds good. Text me if you need anything.” He hangs up. Thanks, dad.
When I got home, I called her again and asked her where she was. I drove around my neighborhood until I found her. She was sitting on the sidewalk corner behind a big truck.
I rolled down my window. “Hey girl. Get in my car.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m not leaving you here.” She had 2 suitcases and a backpack and I could tell she had been crying. It was pretty cold outside as well.
“This is what we’re going to do. We’re gonna talk about this until we figure out what the best thing to do is. But I’m not leaving you until we do.”
More stories unravel about her mom kicking her out before. She had gotten a speeding ticket the other day, and her dad yelled at her like crazy so she was afraid her mom would kick her out again.
“What is going through your head right this instant?” I asked, as we drove around and talked.
“I’m just really scared of my mom,” she said, anxiously.
My dad ended up coming in the car with me because I wasn’t sure what to do. I told her my dad was cool and would stand up for her. He talked to her gently, telling her a story about his cousin who ran away from home once, and the beautiful life she has now. He assured her that her parents loved her, that maybe sometimes their actions didn’t come off that way, but that they were probably worried about her. Yes, that speeding ticket wasn’t the best decision in the world, but she had the power to move on from that. He even offered to pay for it if her parents had a problem with the cost.
I drove up to her house and my dad went in first. He wanted to talk to her parents. They weren’t home, so he ended up talking to her brother instead. Her brother didn’t know she was on the street, and thought she was just hanging out with friends or something. We talked to both of them for a little bit longer, telling her that she is welcome to stay the night at our house but only if her parents know that she is there. She ended up deciding to stay home. Her brother helped her take her suitcases out of my car and then we hugged and parted ways.
I thanked my dad when we got home. I wouldn’t have been able to handle that one on my own. I was super thankful she called me, but have been still trying to figure out how I’m supposed to love people in the best way possible. My dad, as a parent, knew what to say this time. And he was beginning to realize that I have a lot of encounters like this with people.
“These things seem to happen to you all the time. Maybe it is your calling,” he said.
I texted her that night, telling her I was so thankful she reached out to me and reminded her that she may not have gotten to choose her parents or her circumstances, but she does get to choose what she makes of them and that none of her past decisions have to define her. I reminded her that she was loved.
As I continued to meet with mentors and friends this week, I couldn’t help but stress that none of that would’ve happened if I didn’t pet that dog. People judge my need to pet every dog I see on the street so hard! I’m serious. But look at that. God uses everything. I’ve been continuously checking in with her these last few days. And I’m going to keep praying for her, believing that it was no accident that I pet her dog, and no accident that we met. Encounters like this are what I am just so passionate about. I believe in healing and restoration. And I believe those things start when we reach out with an open, intentional heart.
I reach out and then you find me in the dust
You say no amount of untruth, could ever separate us…