The woman across the table nodded at me, flashing a friendly smile. She had a notebook and pen with her and was eating a sandwich. I was attending a writing conference, but I didn’t know anyone, so I was grateful for the place to sit and her warm welcome.
That morning had begun with high hopes. On the drive over, I wondered about all the interesting information I was bound to glean. I’m fairly new to the fiction writing scene, so I expected I would hear from a great many writers who have it all figured out, right? Wrong. After listening to the first couple of workshops, it didn’t take me long to discover that this wasn’t going to be a learning kind of day. I was disappointed, and for a while, seriously thought about leaving early. But I paid for the day, I reminded myself. I want my money’s worth. So I stuck it out.
Change of plans
As I was about to discover, sometimes my purpose for a day is not God’s purpose. Sometimes, the good Lord puts us exactly where he wants us.
“How are you enjoying the conference,” my new friend asked.
“It’s ok,” I said. “How about you?”
“It’s great. Actually, this is the first time I’ve gotten out of the house. I had surgery a couple of months ago.”
She said it so casually, we went on to talk about other things. There was another woman at the table, and she was a kindergarten teacher. We brought her in on the conversation, but strangely, she never mentioned that she had published a children’s book. (We would find that out after lunch.) If she had, the tenor of our conversation might have changed. I might have never learned more about the woman across from me.
“Do you have a writing project in the works,” I asked.
“Oh, no,” she said. “I wasn’t well enough for that until now. But writing has always been an interest of mine. I used to journal a lot when I was a child as a way for me to express my feelings…my childhood was not easy.” She added the last as an afterthought.
I took a closer look at my companion. Her bright smile belied any type of sadness. She had a perfectly oval face and her blond hair fell softly around her head like an angel’s halo. She was about my age, in her late forties or early fifties.
“You look great. What was your illness?”
“I had a kidney transplant. I had been sick for eighteen years, so I was pretty bad. My daughter was my donor.”
“Wow, that’s incredible. You don’t look like you have been ill.”
“Yeah, I know. I have been sick for so long, I don’t remember what it’s like to feel good again. I’m not used to having energy and needing to get out of the house. But I always enjoyed writing, so I thought this conference would be a good way to start a new hobby.”
“That’s amazing that your daughter was your donor.”
“It is,” she acknowledged. “I didn’t ask her to either. She just told me that she was going to be tested and when it turned out we were a perfect match, she said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be your donor.’ I didn’t know what to say. It’s an amazing gift. She’s a wonderful daughter.”
“How is your daughter doing?”
“Oh, she’s back at work already. Her only concern with donating a kidney is that she wanted to have another child. But the doctor reassured her that she could. She has been incredible through the whole thing. When they wheeled us out after surgery, we gave each other a big thumbs up. It was a moment I’ll never forget.”
“Wow. What a fantastic story. You really need to write about this.”
“Yeah, maybe I will,” she said.
Lunch was over but we would find ourselves together in all the remaining workshops. Before the conference ended, we exchanged email and Facebook information, and during a break, she liked my Facebook page.
As I was driving home that afternoon, it struck me that hearing this woman’s story was part of a larger plan. That I needed to hear about her illness as much as she needed to tell me and connect with someone from the outside. Her story was God’s little reminder to me that success can mean different things to different people. For me, it means taking another leap forward on my journey to publication. But for this lovely lady, success is getting out of the house in the morning and enjoying a new hobby.
It was the big man’s loving message to me not to get so caught up in my own goals and ambitions. What a gift I was given when she shared her story. I am so grateful that I was the lucky recipient.