I’m never sure why random strangers like to tell me their life stories, but I’ve more or less accepted it. Recently, I gave some advice to a stranger, and I can’t help wondering if maybe someone else needs to hear it, too.
I was working at a local coffee shop, as I often do, when a woman asked me about the drink I’d ordered. One thing led to another, and soon she was sitting across from me and telling me all about her relationship with her fiancé.
“We’ve lived together for more than three years, and I really want to get married,” she said.
“Oh, this again,” I thought.
Not long before, I had encouraged a neighborhood acquaintance to get married in the Church:
I hope they give themselves the gift of that sacrament and the lifelong graces and blessings that it brings. I’ve seen for myself how powerful those graces can be.
So I figured this was the same situation.
“I guess this is who I am now. I’m a person who encourages random strangers to get married,” I thought to myself with an inward laugh.
But just as I was about to start saying the same things I’d said last time, she spoke first.
“But he doesn’t want to get married,” she said. “Especially since I gained all this weight last year because of my health problems.”
I was stunned.
Before I could think of what to say, she added, “He never helps me around the house or does anything thoughtful for me. And last month I caught him texting another girl. He said it was nothing but the messages were really flirty and inappropriate.”
Finally, I found my voice.
“Um … you should break up with him,” I said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess maybe I should. But we’ve been together for a long time. We have a life together.”
Oh, man. What could I say to her? Her face was filled with pain at the thought of this man’s inconstancy and her own longing for his love.
I took a deep breath and said, as gently as I could,
“I want you to know something. You deserve a man who wants to make you his wife. You deserve a man who is crazy about you. You deserve a man who’s not texting other girls on the side and doesn’t treat you like his servant.
And listen, it doesn’t matter how much you weigh. You’re enough. You’re worth it. Just the way you are.”
She seemed surprised and confused. “You think so?” she said.
“Look, I’m just a random stranger at a coffee shop,” I said. “You don’t have to listen to what I’m telling you. But why don’t you pray about it? Go to a church if you feel comfortable, or go sit in a quiet place, and talk to God about it. Pray, and then do whatever would bring you the most peace.”
“I’ll try that,” she said. “I’m actually Catholic, so I can go to the church near here.”
“I’m Catholic, too,” I said with a smile.
We talked a little more after that and then she left to go to work.
I’ll probably never know what she decides to do, but I pray she walks away from this man who treats her like she’s not enough. God wants us to have genuine love in our lives, to treat ourselves with respect and dignity. He wants us to expect great things, and to have the courage to wait for that.
And if that woman is reading this, I sure hope she really comes to know this: You are worth it, just the way you are.