How the Surprising Actions of a Stranger Changed My Life by Giving Me Hope

Kerry Kerr McAvoy

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New to town and before COVID, I hated weekends.

This is a new development. Until recently I used to love weekends. In fact, I couldn’t wait for them. You might even say, I lived for them.

But that all changed after being widowed and then divorced..

I’m single now. Single after thirty-five years of my adult life spent in a relationship.

It was easy dealing with weekends when I was married. Of course it was spent together. We might work on a few household projects, go to the gym, or grab a quick bite to eat. All done as a team. Sometimes together, sometimes separately, but always as a unit. As a couple.

Being on My Own

Singlehood is different. Freeing in some ways, but harder in others. For the most part I’ve been managing this transition okay, except when it comes to dealing with weekends.

As an introvert, I need some alone time. It’s good for me. Helps me to think and to recharge.

But weekends bring a different kind of aloneness. It’s really more than just being on my own. It’s isolated with only a rare phone call, a few text messages from family, and no visitors. For nearly three days of each week I’m often completely and totally alone.

It seems most people are busy enjoying their own family or their plus one, leaving me, who doesn’t have such a person in my life, on my own.

For all but the most extreme introvert this kind of aloneness is too much. Definitely true for me.

The Challenge of Weekends

I'd begin most weekends by staring down my empty calendar with a brave face until the hours began to warp and stretch out into infinity. Then dread works its way in, with fear close behind, as hopelessness brings up the rear.

This most weekend before COVID was such a case in point. By Saturday afternoons I was already worn out by too much of me time. Bored with Netflix too, I decided one weekend to see what was playing at the local theaters before I gave up, cashed it in, and went to bed early.

To my surprise, the options often were plentiful. So, I decided to do what I call a movie marathon and go to two shows back to back. In years past I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this alone. Especially not on a Saturday night, because it’s date night for many couples.

The first show was fine mostly because I didn’t allow myself to consider I might be the only person in the theater who’s alone. Instead, I stayed focused and watched the movie.

The Power of a Stranger

Then it was time to see the second show. As I walked into the darkened auditorium, I discovered my row was packed with women. The seats were in pairs of two and a shared table. Only one seat was vacant. Mine.

Once in my chair, I took stock of those around me. I could tell the woman to my left was there with a friend. The lady to my right who shared my table seemed to be alone too.

“Here, you can hang your purse on the hook under the table next to mine,” she said. Surprised by her helpful suggestion, I accepted it cautiously, curious of her motives.

I then settled in and ordered a beer. She did the same. “Cheers,” she said as she raised her glass to mine. Touched by the gesture, I followed suit.

Feeling a bit more at ease, I whispered to ask if her order of pizza was worth recommending.

“It was delicious. Here, I’m done with mine though. Please, finish the last two slices,” she insisted as she pushed the plate towards me.

“Oh no,” I replied, feeling awkward and a bit uncomfortable with the idea of eating a stranger’s leftovers.

“Please, they’ll just go to waste,” she answered as she then handed me the container of grated Parmesan cheese.

“Ok, thank you!” I said with a smile as I picked up one of the small slices, unable to resist any longer the aroma of pepperoni and the sharp tangy smell of Parmesan.

She waved down the waiter again, and a few minutes later an order of three large freshly baked cookies arrived at our table.

“I got these to share. Please, I only want half of each.” she said, as she broke the first one apart and took a bite. “Yum, you have to try this one. It’s chocolate chip.”

Chocolate chip cookies? My weakness! In short order the two of us had consumed all three.

She lifted her glass of beer to mine again. “Cheers!” we said in unison.

All too soon the movie ended and the lights came up in the auditorium. Finally I got to meet my evening partner, an attractive forty-something-year-old woman. Hi, I’m Kerry,” I said as I stuck out my hand.

“I’m Marie,” she said, shaking mine as she stood. “Have a great evening!” she then said with a sweet smile and a quick wave good-bye.

And with that she exited. No exchange of phone numbers. No suggestions that we do it again. No offers of an explanation.

All the way home I couldn’t stop smiling though. An ear-to-ear grin. The kindness of a stranger named Marie had changed my night. Turned it upside down and right again.

If I stop to think about it, she only spent a few dollars, but as far as I’m concerned I’d hit the jackpot and won the Lotto.

What possessed this stranger to extend me charity? Maybe she was paying it forward. Maybe she, like me was on her own too and wanted the company. Maybe it’s just who she is.

I will probably never know, but honestly, it doesn’t matter.

Whatever her motives, she made my weekend. Dare I say, she may have even changed me. I feel more hopeful now. A bit more visible to the world round me. All because one woman who sat next to me in a movie theater went out of her way to share a few bites of food with me.

Who knew such a simple gesture could be so life-changing?

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Psychologist, Kerry Kerr McAvoy, Ph.D. writes about dating, healthy relationships, narcissism, and various other mental health-related issues. She is a mom to three grown sons. Loves to swim, snorkel, and read, and enjoys traveling. She lived in the Caribbean for two years. For her monthly letter http://bit.ly/3bCXEnc or to listen to her podcast https://bit.ly/3qiklRC

Austin, TX
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