Disclaimer: Potential trigger topic ahead. Read at your own risk.
When I had to sell my house and move in with my cousin, I rented a storage unit. In a moment of desperation, I gave the second key to my ex-boyfriend so that he would actually move out in preparation for closing. Did he do it on time? Of course not, but he moved his dresser into my unit and had a key.
As I tried to keep things amicable, things went south and the situation became dangerous. I hated that he had access to my unit and I snuck in there one day to pick up a binder and some books I needed for my classroom. A few days prior, I tried to get a new lock but it cost too much with me paying my full mortgage and rent at the same time on a teacher’s salary. I figured if he was going to ruin my stuff, it was just stuff. It would be fine, but I was still terrified to come to a place where he knew I could go. Therefore, I wanted to get in and out of my storage unit immediately. Naturally though, I could not find the book I was looking for in my four boxes of books. I had my pup in the car; I could hear him barking obnoxiously from the parking lot. I was on the dusty floor, books scattered, heart beating because this was the first time since the incident where I may have been in close proximity with someone I considered a threat. He could have followed me there and I was terrified of what he would say, or worse, what he would do.
I took a deep breath and continued digging through piles of books when I heard someone yell “Alexa!” from the down the hallway. A scream escaped from my lips before I could register who was talking. I shoved the boxes over and leaped up to try to get away. As I looked in panic, it wasn’t him. It was the Public Storage lady.
She looked horrified and apologized profusely. I started to cry tears of relief. The poor woman didn’t know what to do. I tried to apologize for my outrageous behavior–that she was fine. She didn’t do anything wrong. I was just in a situation where I was jumpy and then with a deep breath, I told her the truth. I said the words—through hiccuping tears–for the first time aloud: “I am trying to get out of an abusive relationship.”
She just hugged me.
Then I realized she must have come to condemn me for leaving my barking dog in the car for so long. I started to apologize and she interrupted to say that she had a lock. An old used one. Or maybe a new one. She said she found it and she wanted me to have it. She traded out my lock. For free. She didn’t want him to have access to my storage unit anymore. With a hug and well wishes, she sent me on my way.
I got into my car to drive off and had to pull over because I couldn’t stop crying.
Sometimes we forget that as humans, we all belong to each other. We all share the same human dignity and are all trying to do the same thing: live a happy, fulfilled life. This woman selflessly took care of me when I was at my weakest, broken and scared.
I am so thankful for her compassion, for how she empowered me. And I hope to live my life with that same compassion and gratitude to empower those around me.