Sunday, December 4, 2016

"A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face." Maya Angelou

I had an encounter this week which reminded me once again about the importance of kindness and caring about others - even strangers.  This one hit me particularly hard; so hard, that I have the need to write about it, because of all of the feelings that rushed through my senses and brain from this encounter.  Here is how it happened.

I was in the self-checkout line of the grocery store, in a bit of a hurry, scanning my 10 items. I heard the cashier in the next aisle ask her customer, "How are you today?"  The woman answered in tears, saying that her husband, who had never been sick in all of their married years, had started to vomit, which prompted an emergency room visit, and that he was diagnosed with leukemia, in the hospital, receiving treatment which was not working, and the that prognosis was not good. She was weeping.  My heart stopped, and I felt as though I had been sucker-punched.

She was me 7 years ago when my never-ever-sick husband started to vomit and could not stop, went to the emergency room, and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and given 12 months to live.  I stopped scanning my items, turned to her and said, "I will wait for you to check out. I have been where you are. We need to talk. Something similar happened to my husband, and I understand."  Suddenly, I was no longer in a hurry. I knew what I had to do, since so many strangers had helped me when Scott was sick.

Several minutes and many dollars later, we pushed our carts side by side and began to speak in earnest.  Her first question was about my husband's destiny, which was sadly ended by the cancer, despite 48 chemo and 25 radiation treatments. She wept as she talked about their upcoming plans to retire; about her fear of being alone; about her feeling of helplessness and despair; about the fear of going on alone. Within moments of meeting, we realized the importance of this chance encounter.  She needed personal guidance and encouragement to go on; she needed to articulate to someone who really understood her feelings, rather than talking aimlessly about "what ifs" in the abstract to a friend or family member who could not understand the depth and pain of her emotions.  She needed to know that life can and does go on, and she needed to express her fear and pain to a friend who was completely in sync and harmony with her feelings.  That person was me.

We cried and talked for over 40 minutes. I listened, she talked; I talked, she listened. Our give and take was about wives and nurturers, husbands and providers.  We talked about protecting the ones we love, doing the best we can do, and trying to look for something small to appreciate, even in the face of some terrible news.  We cried about the shock of dealing with sudden illness, hospitalization, bills to be paid, and trying to balance it all- emotionally and financially. We were two strangers who became friends very quickly.

When our conversation was ending, she told me, "I never come into this store.  I am not sure why I did today, but now I know that I was meant to meet you. You have shown me that life can go on, and I can do this."  We hugged, exchanged cards, and promised to email.

When Scott was diagnosed with cancer, I cried everywhere, except in front of him. Countless time, complete strangers comforted me, spent time with me, listened to my story, and offered words of advice and encouragement which I really needed at the time. I am grateful to them all, and I am happy to pay it forward to a person who needs my caring and advice. 

Maya Angelou is right.  "A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face." 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at  The website now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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