Sometimes, we have absolutely no idea what people around us are going through. Whether they be close friends and family, or strangers, it’s amazing how the littlest of things can form bonds, ties that bind, that make a big difference. I was reminded of that tonight, so on this Thankful Thursday, I just wanted to share of how I’m thankful for God’s gentle reminders to trust Him with where He leads and to be thankful for and aware of the people whose paths we cross… For sure, we never know what people are going through.
So, he looked like just an ordinary teenager. Clad in a high school baseball cap, a tank t-shirt and jeans, he would’ve been able to blend in just about anywhere in this small town. But what wasn’t ordinary was the fact that this teenaged boy was walking up and down the aisles of the men’s department, looking at suits, ties, and dress pants, as his grandmother followed along.I had seen the grandmother pacing back and forth looking for him and let her know which part of the store he was in. “He’s over there, ” I said as I pointed to where he was. They then continued looking through rack after rack of formal men’s attire.
As I stood and waited for my son to try on clothes in the dressing room, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on the grandmother and the boy. But it was a Thursday night, and there were very few people in the department store, so I couldn’t help hearing their conversation. “Do you know how to tie a tie?” the boy asks his grandma. “No, do you?” the grandmother replies. “No.” he says. Then silence.
The little conversation brought up a funny memory for me, regarding my son, (the one trying on the pants in the dressing room), and learning to tie a tie. It was about 5 years ago, and he was in high school. He had an important interview the next morning and we had laid out his suit and…his tie. But did I know how to tie a tie? Nope. Did he know how to tie a tie? Nope. His Dad was unavailable, and this mom…well, it was up to this mom to figure out how to tie a tie pre the early morning interview when this young man in man’s clothes would need to have a tie tied to that collared shirt and suit he was wearing. So, of course, I did what any mom would do. I googled “how to tie a tie”. Who knew there’d be a hundred links. And who knew that even the “easy” sites would be…not. Not easy at all. No, they were not easy to follow for this mom who had a long to do list that night and was admittedly a bit stressed out trying to patiently follow directions for what should be a simple task. When it’s late at night and you’ve still got tons to do before getting some rest and you need to drive your son a few hours away in the morning for an early morning interview, well, it’s not easy to concentrate on what the guy on the googled video is saying about tying a tie. Just saying.
So, I got it. When the boy in the department store and his grandmother realized they didn’t know how to tie a tie, I so knew what that felt like. I thought about offering Austin to help them tie the ties, but by the time he was out of the dressing room, I didn’t see them. So it was a cool thing when, later on, they turned up at the same fast food restaurant in the mall at the same time that we did. And that’s when I quietly told my son, Austin, that they didn’t know how to tie a tie, and asked if he’d be willing to tie a tie. He said yes.
I have to admit it was a little awkward walking up to them and saying I had heard their conversation and could we help them tie the tie. But, the awkwardness melted away in seconds as relief washed over them. It was such a cool thing to see the smile on the little grandmother’s face and the teenaged boy’s eyes light up. Phew. Relief. One less thing to worry about. And like I said, I got that. I know tying a tie is a little thing, but often the occasions which merit wearing a tie are not, so the pressure to make it ‘just right’ can feel big.
As Austin tied the tie for the boy, the grandmother and I sat at the table in the fast food restaurant and she quietly leaned across the table, looked me straight in the eye, and quietly whispered, “His mom was killed in a car accident on Monday….” That was 3 days ago. I sat in disbelief and watched the brave boy standing there as my son tied a tie for him. He was preparing for an occasion that no one would choose. He was preparing to go to the funeral of his mom. In the midst of all that he was going through, he stood straight and tall, thanked my son wholeheartedly, asked him his name, and shook his hand with a firm hand shake. Never in a million years would I have guessed that he had just faced a huge tragedy in his life.
After the tie-tying was accomplished, we all smiled and said good byes and my son and I walked to the parking lot and drank our frosted lemonade as the grandmother and the boy stayed in the restaurant and ate their chicken sandwiches and fries. But it felt like something big had happened. A little bit of a load was lightened…for them, and for us. The last thing this young boy needed to worry about on the day of his mom’s funeral was how to tie a tie. As we walked to the car, I thought about how often I just don’t listen to those little ‘nudges’ and wonder how many incredible moments and stories we miss out on…how many connections…how many ties…we miss out on. What’s beautiful though, is how many ties, how many connections, we really have with the people around us and how teeny tiny little attempt to reach out, can make a big difference.
I have a feeling that boy will wear the tie with pride as he goes to his mother’s funeral on Saturday. I pray that he’ll feel loved and embraced and connected to the people around him. I pray that he’ll know that he’s not alone even through the grief of losing his mother. I pray that he’ll know the grace of God that fills voids and is like a bridge that joins people together. We aren’t meant to walk alone. We need each other, with big things like overcoming tragedy, and little things like tying ties. We never know what people are going through…or how reaching out can really help them through whatever it is they are facing.
Sometimes needs can be a bridge to help us to build connections. Sometimes we’re on the need side. Sometimes we’re on the “able to meet the need” side. But irregardless, we all choose whether we’re going to walk across that bridge and meet the need or accept the help. And when we do? Well, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing, and it reminded me that God orchestrates so much more than I could ever imagine. He cares about us. He cares about our connections, our hearts, our relationships, and He even cares about our ties….not just the figurative ones, but even the literal gray and black first time tied ties of 16 year old boys who just need a hand.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them.”