The Woman Who Changed The World

We coughed and sputtered, our lungs filled with exhaust as we waited to cross the busy street.

Horns honked over and over, our ears ringing from the noise.

We winced and waited, a slight break in the traffic the signal we needed to scamper across, stopping only to let a motorcycle swerve suddenly to avoid us. Cabs screeched to a halt, annoyed at the pedestrians blocking their path.

This is life in the heart of Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Woman

We didn’t see her at first. She was hidden behind parked motorcycles, swallowed up by the chaos of the city. Nobody saw her. They brushed past her, nearly stepping on her outstretched broken leg, barely protected by a flimsy cast.

She opened her palm to tourists and locals alike, grasped their donations tightly in her calloused hand.

They treated her like a stray dog, most of them ignoring her completely, as if she were barely human, an annoyance, sitting too close to the street, a disruption in the flow of traffic.

It was one of our first days in Nepal, a day off filled with laundry services, wifi and coffee shops. We walked around the city, allowing the simplicity of the tourist-life to soothe our disheartened, exhausted souls.

A World Changer?

I went on the World Race because I wanted to change the world. I wanted to snuggle orphans and pray for widows. I wanted to feed babies and give villages clean water. I wanted to be an extra hand on a farm and break sex slaves free from their captivity.

I wanted to change the world.

As an aspiring world changer, it doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed. Within my first week on the field I found myself overcome by the abuse, sin and poverty in the world.

How was I going to even make a dent?

But we snuggled and loved and prayed and worked nonetheless, hoping beyond hope that our presence was making a difference.

My World

The thing I didn’t think about before I left was my world and how much it would be changed by the one I was stepping into.

I wasn’t thinking about ministry that day, I wasn’t thinking about making an impact or how I could love the people around me. I was focused on my day off, on soaking in the luxuries I had left back at home. I was focused on my coffee– bringing it to my mouth and feeling nourished in the most familiar way.

But when I met that woman, something in my world shifted.

I almost walked right by, too, following suit with the locals, ignoring her or just stepping over, but something made me stop. We have to pray for her I said, almost reluctantly, wondering what the others in my group would think, what onlookers would think.

But we stooped down, anyway, too close for comfort to oncoming traffic.

We decided not to care.

Her World

She hid her fistful of money, looking confused as we said hello, not wanting us to take it.  We said some words, hoping they would sooth her, but knowing she wasn’t going to be able to understand us. Then I took her hand.

It was calloused and dirty and my hands shook as I held hers in mine.

But what happened next astounded me.

Her face exploded into a smile, brighter and more brilliant than I’ve ever seen before.

She grasped tightly to my hand, and reached over for my cheek, pinching and smacking it with joy. She laughed and reached for my friends, holding our hands and leaning in close.

Nobody had touched her in ages, maybe several years.

We sat with her for awhile, miming and laughing, holding her hands and finally praying. Eventually we had to get up and walk away.

World-Changing Things

I have no idea what happened to that woman. I don’t know how long she will live or if she will eat. I don’t know if she has a mental illness or any family to speak of.

I don’t know if anyone will speak to her after us, reminding her she’s deserving of love and respect.

But here’s what I do know.

Jesus loved the forgotten and the rejected, and that’s what we did that day.

And my decision to reach out that day may not have changed the whole world, but it changed my world, and it might have changed hers too.

I realized, sitting with her on the curb of the busiest street in Nepal, how important love is. I realized ministry and missions and social justice isn’t all food programs and water purification. It’s not all breaking women out of brothels. Those are just part of the whole.

More than anything its meeting people where they are and treating them with the love and dignity that we all deserve as the children of God

Have you had an experience that has changed your whole world, or the world of someone else? Will you share?

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/ Matt Appling

    That’s an awesome story, Stephanie. And it’s a great reminder of the power of simple gestures. Love doesn’t have to be a grand or complicated thing. And when most Americans don’t even really know their neighbors, most of us could change a life just by walking a block from our homes.

    • http://twitter.com/Smay15 Stephanie May

      I completely agree. Why is it easier to love in a different country than it is to love our neighbors?

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    Awe, Steph, this melted me!

    • http://twitter.com/Smay15 Stephanie May

      You’re so sweet!

  • Kimberly

    I understand the power that you felt in those moments. I once held the hand of a man named Abraham who was a street cleaner in Worcester, South Africa. He cried as I reached out and touched his hand, and said that he would never forget that moment. There are times when we reach out and touch someone else that our action goes deeper than skin deep, but touches the soul and forever leaves an impact. Beautiful story!

    • http://twitter.com/Smay15 Stephanie May

      I love that!! Thanks so much for sharing Kimberly!

  • http://twitter.com/klynnlest Kacie Lynn

    I hate to admit it, but when I remember her and remember that photo where she was pulling me toward her so hard that I was about to topple you and Loren over, the first things I remember are the lice we could see in her hair and the dirt and grime that her touch left on our skin…and then I remember the laughter, and the sparkle in her eyes, and the heart wrenching moment when she tried to offer us money after we prayed for her – like Jesus and Love were to be bought and sold on the side of the road. Thanks for being with me and for writing these stories and for not letting me forget what God did last year. I really, really like reading the way you remember that day :)

    • http://twitter.com/Smay15 Stephanie May

      You’re the best. I love you a lot Kace. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one that got to be there that day.

  • http://twitter.com/Douglas_AmongUs Douglas H.

    Great story. It really is the simplest things. Thanks for writing this.

    • http://twitter.com/Smay15 Stephanie May

      Thank you for reading Douglas! :-)

  • http://twitter.com/KellyW2010 KellyW2010

    What a lovely reminder that small can be as (or more) momentous than big. That sometimes goodness in life is about time shared rather than things given. Thank you for this powerful story.

    • Stephanie May

      Thank you so much for reading!

  • Kath

    Your article is so moving.

    “I realized, sitting with her on the curb of the busiest street in Nepal, how important love is. I realized ministry and missions and social justice isn’t all food programs and water purification. It’s not all breaking women out of brothels. Those are just part of the whole.More than anything its meeting people where they are and treating them with the love and dignity that we all deserve as the children of God.” These were the most moving statements!

    Thank you for your life and being an inspiration. It is true that we can’t change the whole world, but we know we can make just even a small difference. I hope we can get in touch Miss Steph.