Editor’s Note: Associate Director, Meghan Meros reflects on how love bloomed in an a very unexpected situation through the kindness of a stranger.

Search my phone contacts and you will find an eclectic group of people. Occasionally, I tell myself that it’s time to purge my contacts (why do I still need the number of a massage school in California?), and then I don’t because it feels like too much work. But the other, albeit lesser reason I don’t often delete names and numbers is that I feel a bit nostalgic when I look at my contacts; they are a history of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and who’s impacted my life.

One of the people I don’t really need in my contacts but can’t bring myself to delete is “Tom (Lexus),” a man I only texted a few times—back in the spring of 2015. Tom and I had the pleasure of meeting when I hit his Lexus in a small fender bender at a stoplight. Neither of us even saw any damage when we inspected his shiny, new SUV, though Tom later discovered that I had broken his backup cameras. Bumping into Tom’s Lexus was definitely not on my to-do list when I woke up that morning, but it happened, and I was ready to accept the consequences with adult maturity and a stiff upper lip.

However, my stoicism held out only as long as it took Tom and I to exchange insurance information in a nearby parking lot. As soon as he rolled away, I burst into tears. My life was very stressful at that time for a variety of reasons, and the consequence of going too soon at a green light was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I needed a good, cathartic cry, and there was no stopping the tears once they started flowing. I was just glad that I was alone.

But suddenly, I saw Tom circling back to me from across the parking lot. What is he doing? I thought, as I tried to regain composure in order to greet Tom again as the adult with a stiff upper lip. Turns out Tom had forgotten to ask me something about insurance, but talking even briefly through the rolled down windows of our respective cars was long enough for him to see that I was not okay.

More concerned about me than his car, Tom said some kind words about how this accident was really not a big deal, that he was not upset, that no one was hurt. The more kindness he showed, however, the more I cried, and the more I cried, the more kindness Tom showed. “I feel bad leaving you like this,” Tom said from his SUV, clearly torn between his desire to help and his desire to honor my invitation to get on with his day. “Are you sure you’re okay? What’s going on? I can’t help but think that something else is going on.”

He was right. There was a lot going on, and lot to cry about, but the beauty of that situation was that Tom was ready to listen for a while–long enough for me to unburden myself and feel the healing effect of my tears.

The next day, Easter Sunday, Tom wished me a happy holiday and expressed his hope that I was doing better. I responded with Easter greetings and thanked him for his help. Several days later, Tom texted to let me know about the backup cameras, but also asked how I was doing. “Better,” I could definitely say.

A few texts later, the conversation between Tom (Lexus) and me went silent. His time-bound role in my story had been filled, and life moved on.

In a sense, this is a tale of Easter joy and suffering transformed, but it’s a tale for this season, too. At Advent, part of what we celebrate and cherish is the fact that God allows and enables love to bloom in unexpected places, at unexpected times, and for unexpected reasons. Love once bloomed in a stable, but it also bloomed for me in a parking lot.

Reflection: When was a time where a stranger brought you comfort and peace?