Anne came to my desk on a fairly average Saturday
in the walk-in Health Clinic where I worked.
She had been badly burned by a spill of hot soup
at work, and needed another debridement at the clinic.
Unfortunately, clinics like ours are notorious for
long waiting periods and Anne and her son were
operating on a tight schedule. I assured them that I
would do my best to service them as quickly as
possible, however, we are bound to a first-come,
After a long wait, Anne's name was finally
called. While Anne was with the nurse, her husband
arrived and left with her son. With a worried look on
his face, he brought me the car keys, asking me to
relay the message that he had left and she should
drive herself home. I passed the message on to the
nurse, and she looked at me with a horrified
"Drive!?" she asked, "That woman is drunk!"
The nurse went on to share additional concerns
with me, telling me about the bruises covering the
woman's body. We consulted the doctor, and when Anne
came out, I spoke with her.
"Your son has left with your husband wanted you
to drive home. However, we are under the impression
that you are intoxicated."
"Oh," she replied in a thick German accent, her
face wrinkled in worry, "I don't want to drive! What
should I do?"
By this time, the clinic had cleared out. I
offered to call a taxi, but Anne shared with me that
she was completely broke. She called her family, but
no one was home to give her a ride. In despair, she
sat outside on the curb, hoping her husband would
Stepping outside, I sat down next to her and
asked, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
She smiled, surprised that I knew her native
language. We had a long talk about Germany and how
things were different for her here. In Germany,
she shared, she had a job that paid $20 an hour.
Despite the fact that she speaks four languages and is
very well educated, she could only find minimum wage
fast food jobs.
Anne continued, telling me how her American
husband relentlessly stressed that she was "no good"
and "worthless" and could never get a job. Her
animosity was great, and she confided that her
drinking was "an escape" and a way to deal with the
rage and beatings.
The despair in Anne's eyes was a knife in my
heart. Sensing I only had a few moments in this
woman's life, I tried to think about the best thing I
I ran in and called our local taxi company. I
opened my wallet, and sure enough, I had exactly the
amount for the fare.
Going back out to Anne, I told her that a cab was
on the way. She had tears of thanks in her eyes. I
explained that my main concern was for her, that she
reach home safely and that her life would take a turn
for the better. She promised she would try to make
some changes, and I walked her to the cab.
The nurse was surprised by my actions. She
didn't condone supporting "alcoholism" and was sure I
would never see the money again. I explained that it
takes a ripple to start a wave, and I hoped I had
started a tide of love in Anne's life. Honestly, I
never expected to see or hear from Anne again, and I
hoped that my words had not rung on deaf ears.
About a month later, I got a call at work.
On the line was Anne. She asked how much she
owed, and I reiterated that I didn't need to be paid
back. The next thing Anne said was a better
reimbursement than any amount of money ever could be.
"Lauren, I've gotten a new job. As a secretary!
It pays well, and I've stopped drinking as much."
Her joyous sentences put tears in my eyes, and I
knew that my little ripple was the beginning of a new,
positive side in Anne's life, and the overflowing
spirit of love would continue to make waves.