The Graceful Way You Touch a Stranger

From the moment I met a stranger in Carkeek Park, tears were streaming down my face.

The way she walked, taking graceful strides like a dancer on the stage. She bowed to me, extended her arm, and said, “May I help you?” Contact that was both intentional and warm.

Her kindness was extraordinary. I had just encountered a horse-sized pit bull, off-leash, its owner so enthralled with the dog’s play and power that she never noticed the threat he posed to me. “Oh, he doesn’t usually approach people,” she said.

Not much comfort for me. Alone in the park with my walker, I had forgotten to feel vulnerable until that moment, and that dog.

That’s when this woman showed up, along with her (fully-leashed) dog and her husband. She was tall, and her bow brought her to my eye level. Her actions clearly told me she was focused on connecting with me.

What a contrast: of dogs, their owners, of solo walkers and couples. They offered to escort me across the grassy field, which was a great comfort. In the outdoors, without walls, I feel much safer walking with others.

She asked me about my mini walker. She told me she use to have a walker too when she had MS. “Had,” as in “used to have.” As in “cured.”

It broke my heart wide open. “What did you do?” I asked her. “Obviously you’re really healthy and doing well, so what did you do?”

She said curing MS had been a battle, and an incredible journey. Part of her cure was mind over matter. By the time we crossed the field she began sharing highlights of her story.

Before I could ask more, she asked me about my MS treatment, what I did for it.

"In lieu of drugs, I do CranioSacral Therapy." I have chosen to work with new mothers and babies because of the potential, the beautiful energy, the vibrancy of the beginning of life. That, I told her, is my medicine.

Five years ago at Carkeek, I sat soaking in golden light and these words came to me: “Believe that you will heal.” People can believe that they will recover from a broken leg or a virus, but it took forever for me to accept that I could heal from MS. Meeting this woman spoke to me of mind over matter, healing when it seems impossible. This woman became, for me, a messenger of life.

Her story is her own, and disentangling it from mine requires delicacy and humility. I feel deeply her hope, her resilience and her strength, the forgiveness and trust she needed to get through her healing, as well as her undeniable spirit. I am forever changed by meeting her.

But her story is not my story. My story is that I met a woman in the park -- in Carkeek Park, a sacred place for me -- and my life is forever changed.

In my CranioSacral practice, I work intimately, and all of my interactions with others are intimate. I’ve learned that because of this intimacy, I need to extend the same confidentiality online to those I meet that I offer my clients in my practice.

Or, hearing a story that means so much to me, I need to ask, “May I share your story? It means so much to me, and I think it would offer healing to my readers.” I want to share her story, because it moved me so much, but it doesn’t belong to me, so I am left sharing my feelings and perceptions with you.

I hoped to see her again. I gave her my card and she said she’d text me — and by the time I got home, my water bottle had spilled all over my phone. The phone went into a bag of rice, seeking salvation and dehydration. I was ready to go back to the park to look for her, and ready for the kind of graceful strangers whose stories always teach me more about the world. There was a break in connection and communication, and I hope that it can mend in the future.

I know not everyone is ready to share their intimate stories online. If this story touches you, feel free to comment below with a simple “Yes” so I know you heard me.