“How are you,” I ask. She looks up from wiping the sink, into the mirror to get a look at me. Then she leans her whole body sideways, finishes swiping the white enamel canoe shaped sink until the bowl is spotless. She smiles and says she is fine. I linger because I sense something more.
Her round cheeks permanently flush, like someone wiped their finger stained with lipstick across them. Her skin is so pale it nearly matches the color of the thin white blouse she wears, making her blue eyes noticeable.
“It’s almost time to go home,” she says.
I turn around with dripping hands looking for the towels and empathize, “You must be counting the minutes then.”
She pulls herself up, moves over to the next sink in the trio and tells me she will be going to the hospital to visit her granddaughter when she gets off.
I hesitate, look in the mirror on the opposite wall and realize we’re the only ones in the bathroom at the Delta Club now. Just outside the door the room is full of travelers speaking different languages. Sitting with their luggage at white plastic tables, eating plates of carrots and salmon sandwiches shaped like rectangles. Somehow, it feels like I’ve entered a sacred portal.
I ask Jesus what He has in mind for these moments that I’m alone in the restroom with an airport employee.
“Oh, she must be quite sick,” I respond.
In less than a minute, I learn that her granddaughter is sixteen, her name is Courtney, and the doctors think she suffers from appendicitis. Except that there are signs of internal bleeding too. She can’t even hold water down.
I tell her I have a seventeen year old daughter and can imagine she must be worried sick. “That sounds serious,” I say.
She makes eye contact with me.
“I’ll pray for your Courtney,” I tell her. She looks down, fiddles with the wet paper towel she is using to clean and mumbles something quietly, then starts wiping the third sink, the one I just used.
“Thank you for praying,” she says sheepishly.
It only takes a minute to be vulnerable and lead someone to the presence of God. I think about how many times I’ve asked someone that question, “How are you?”, and didn’t wait long enough to hear the answer. Or God speaking.
We’re all longing for someone to listen. Because very few of us are just fine.
So, how are you?