He said he wants a divorce.
When I first heard the word “divorce,” I thought for sure it was an exaggeration.
Shanett Coleman of Chicago has been one of my best friends since I relocated from Terre Haute, Indiana nearly 20 years ago.
She’s known for being a drama queen.
And yes, one might argue we’re cut from the same cloth. However, upon hearing her husband, of then five years was leaving, I quickly commented, “He’s not leaving. You just had a baby. He wouldn’t! Your marriage is just going through the normal adjustment of having an infant.”
She cleared her throat and retorted, “Is it also normal for him to commit adultery?!”
Shortly thereafter, to my surprise he did leave. With her cup half denial and the other half hope, she never filed for divorce.
Over the following five years, I listened as she cried and complained of how life dealt her a bad hand. And, she wasn’t receptive to being consoled by me. I was a constant reminder of what she’d lost. My husband was present and actively involved in the lives of our children. “How could you possibly know what I’m going through?” she’d ask me with disdain.
I lacked compassion.
I wanted her to, get over it!
So, our friendship went on sabbatical.
She was always in my thoughts even during our time apart, I’d refer to her as one of my best friends. After two years, by divine intervention, we were reunited.
“What’ve you been up to?” I asked with enthusiasm as I met her vibrant smile and warm hello in our local Sam’s Club.
“I’ve been putting all my energy into the Lord and my son.” she replied as she further explained it was his seventh birthday and she was picking up his cake. We exchanged information and resumed our friendship, just as if we’d never been apart.
We spent morning after morning catching up on the previous two years. She was still married, to an estranged husband.
“Still?” I said, trying not to sound judgmental but totally failing.
“I know. I know. But, I told the Lord, I’m ready now. I’m letting go.” she said, desperate for my buy-in.
This time, I believed her.
Something was different and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
One day, while on her job of 11 years, one of the executive directors walked by. His superior position left little interaction between them. Nonetheless, this day he stopped her. “I’d like to do something nice for you. May I?” he asked.
Not one for turning down a freebie she interjected, “Sure, what would that be?”
She said she thought he wanted to buy the office staff lunch.
He responded with, “My wife and I would like to buy you a car.”
Shanett had been driving a raggedy ol’ beat up Acura. The engine hadn’t stopped but I can’t say the same for the stereo, air conditioning and heat.
As a single parent, she’d chosen to forgo repairs to allow her son privileges she otherwise couldn’t afford. She said she wanted to compensate for the absence of his dad.
So, diligently she worked, many nights overtime so her son could swim and play chess, soccer and violin.
This executive didn’t know her financial situation.
Nor did he know she was a single parent.
All he knew was she worked in his firm and drove a car that clanked through the parking garage with a smile on her face. In the office, she was courteous, respectful and always there. He was a man with the means to be a blessing and she happened to be his targeted recipient. Within a few weeks of his offer, she was driving a gently-used, metallic silver, Honda Accord.
She was humbled to tears. She wrote him a letter of gratitude.
“I’ve worked for this firm 11 years,’’ she wrote in a portion of the letter. “This company has afforded me the opportunity to provide my son with a good life. I admire the culture of my workplace. The pleasant environment and opportunities to advance are what keep me loyal. I also appreciate this company’s initiative to give back through work programs like the one recently started for underprivileged inner-city children.
“I’ve modeled my personal life after some of the values I’ve seen displayed here. My son and I volunteer for organizations every holiday so that we too can do our part to give back. Working here has definitely increased my quality of life. From the ability to attend Broadway plays to luxury dining and even the professional ball games, I’ve been exposed to a life I would ordinarily not be able to afford. I earn a decent wage but being a single parent is hard. I make sacrifices. One being to continue to drive a car that needed to be replaced. You provided a gift I never expected and couldn’t have possibly earned. I believe your act of kindness is God’s grace and favor over my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity, may it be returned to you with the same measure.”
This man’s act of generosity refueled Shanett, several months later, she received a pay increase, accompanied by a promotion. This is a great reminder that we should be mindful of our attitude regardless of our circumstance.
Ask yourself, “Do I present myself in a way that would cause someone to desire to bless me?”
You never know whose paying attention.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.