When I stepped on the hotel elevator on the second floor, the only other person inside was a 20-something woman. She was crying but working hard not to. Yet she couldn’t stop.
I have been there – something hurts so badly you can’t control the emotion, even when you’re in a public place and you feel embarrassed at not being able to stop.
I paused briefly to look at her, unsure whether to ignore her and mind my own business to my 14th floor room. I noticed she’d pushed the 6th floor button so I knew we wouldn’t share this space long.
Leaders do the right thing
But ignoring someone in pain did not seem the right thing to do. I had no idea what caused such agony and had no idea if she had someone to comfort her on Floor 6. But when I see human pain like this up close, I feel compelled to respond.
“Can I give you a hug?”
She nodded yes.
So I hugged her until we arrived on the 6th floor, without saying a word. Whatever awkwardness there was from two strangers silently hugging was dissipated by being authentic with each other in real time.
The elevator stopped at 6 and she exited. I never saw her again.
Points of reflection
Later, I wondered if I should have reached out further: “Do you have someone to talk to in your room? Or someone you can call?” Then, if she said no, would I have felt compelled to be the one she poured out her angst to? Would I then be embroiled in this stranger’s life when I had other things on my docket for the day?
I’ll never know what caused her such strong emotion. But I am glad I offered the hug.
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