So today I was standing in line at the bank when I became aware that there was a smell of alcohol emanating from the person standing behind me. When the line took a turn, I got a chance to catch a glimpse of the person. An ordinary-looking female, perhaps in her late 30s or early 40s. We even conversed briefly after she a comment about how cute my sons are. When she spoke it became obvious that I had not imagined it. Her speech sounded normal, but she had an obvious smell of alcohol on her breath. It was 11:30 am.
I don't think I acted any differently toward her, but I felt very uncomfortable. Here I knew that she had been drinking, perhaps dysfunctionally, and she didn't know that I knew. It's like having the hem of your skirt caught in the top of your underwear and no one tells you. I fantasized about being some all-wise, benevolent soul who could come across as completely non-threatening while saying, "I don't know whether you're aware of this, Ma'am, but I think there's a possibility that you may be an alcoholic. Have you ever considered whether that is an issue for you?"
But, really, how do I know? Maybe there was something extraordinary going on in her life today, something that made it reasonable for her to be partying before lunchtime. Or maybe she really is an alcoholic and knows it full well, but hasn't reached the place of being ready to do anything about it. It's like what I said about the movie Crash. Everybody has a back story. If we could follow everyone home, we could put their actions in perspective.
I believe that all of our abilities are given to us by God for a purpose. Our ability to communicate should be used to spread truth and wisdom among our fellow beings. I had some truth ("You smell like booze") that she might have appreciated knowing. But how could you ever share that with a stranger without sounding accusing and judgemental? You just have to trust that you're not the only caring person in the world and that there are appropriate people in her life who can help her on her life's journey, if help is needed.
She went her way, and I went mine. I'll most likely never see her again, but I can still say a prayer for her.