Sole Sisters

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image
Once at a women’s retreat I was asked to be a small group leader, and in my group was a woman from Zimbabwe: Madelyn.

Madelyn had wide-set brown eyes, in glowing smooth skin, an infectious smile, and a clear zest for life. As group leader, I only noticed this tangentially, maybe in retrospect. Mostly I assumed the “I know most” attitude—after all, I was the group leader—and Madelyn was unassuming.

Our first group gathering sent us through a round of ice-breaker questions. Do you like wine or margaritas? (This was not your usual women’s retreat!) Water or snow skiing? Back rubs or foot rubs?

At the mention of foot rubs, Madelyn’s eyes rolled heavenward. She sighed and said in charmingly accented English, “Ooh, foot rubs!” Madelyn worked 60 hours a week as a nurse to support herself and her daughter.

A voice said almost audibly, “Give her a foot rub.” Internally I responded with what I hoped would sound pleasant: “No, I don’t wish to do that.”

Over the next two days, each group meeting, each sighting of Madelyn was a reminder of what God had asked of me. Each time I silently resisted with what I hoped did not seem so coarse as shirking or an excuse, but laudable self-assertion: “Not now”. . .“Not enough time”. . .“She’ll think I’m weird, and then I will too.”

Finally, I physically shook my head and shrugged: “Okay, okay, but you make our paths cross and open space in the schedule.”

Sixty seconds later, I headed up a stairwell and Madelyn was heading down. “Got a minute?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said.

“Where are you staying?”

Madelyn pointed down the hall to the room next to mine. I went into my room for a towel. “No lotion,” I said to God.

“Just take the towel.”

I entered Madelyn’s room and said, “May I give you a foot massage?”

Two eyes, dark and wide-set, puddled with real tears. She said yes. To the desk on my right I saw a bottle of apple-scented lotion. Madelyn placed her feet in my lap and we smiled at each other. I looked down at her caramel feet and pale, pink soles; her toes showed the pinch and wear of long days.

As I began to rub and knead arches, heels, toes, instep, Madelyn told me about coming to America. She had been a young wife; her husband died suddenly; she raised her daughter alone, working 60 to 80 hours a week as a nurse. She spoke familiarly of suffering in her country. She wanted to return and help her people. She was preparing now to leave on a medical mission. Already, this single mother on a nurse’s salary had sponsored seven countrymen into the United States.

And, of course, God knew we both needed this.