She hobbled into our tent and stood in the middle of my conversation. “I think I sprained my ankle.”
It was that awkward moment when I knew I should care, but honestly, I believed I was too busy to take the time to help. I was about to take a volunteer to see a band, hundreds of people were walking by the tent that I wanted to talk to, and the general urgency of working Warped Tour buzzed incessantly in my head. Adding another thing to that overwhelm felt too inconvenient.
So, I took my volunteer backstage, and when I got back she was still there. I leaned down and asked her if she was okay and if she could walk. She said yes and stood up, but she couldn’t stand very well. Her face crunched as she winced in pain. The medic tent was halfway across the venue, and in that condition, she wouldn’t make it on her own. An automatic sense of duty clicked within me because I realized that she needed me. So I told her to use me as a crutch, and we started walking towards the medics together.
With her arm around my neck and my arm under hers, we walked step, limp, step through the parking lot. I looked over at this girl, and I really noticed her for the first time. The buzzing of busyness stopped humming for just a moment, and I realized that this probably wasn’t in her plans for the ideal “best day ever” at Warped. So, I asked her to tell me about herself. She told me her name, and then she told me she had sprained her other ankle last Warped Tour in a similar way. My heart hurt for her. She sounded so sad that what ended her day last year repeated itself this year. It’s hard to mosh and crowd surf and jump up and down on a sprained ankle. Not being able to do any of that sucked half the fun out of going to a concert, not to mention the fact that every step she took now shot pain up her leg.
Mulling all that over in my head, I couldn’t help but feel compassion for her. So I looked at her as she hobbled beside me, and I asked, “What would make your day special this time around?” She said she was really looking forward to meeting her favorite band. And it just so happened that in that exact moment, that same band was doing a signing at a tent we were about to walk by on the way to the medics. Considering I knew the people that ran the tent, I asked for a favor and asked the people in the front of the line if my friend could slide in. They let her, and she got to hug her heroes and tell them how much they meant to her.
During the last stretch of our trek, she was beaming. We wrapped around the fence between the main stage and the medic tent, and one of the paramedics took her to a seat and assured her everything was going to be okay. The feeling of safety whelmed us both, and I could see some sense of relief fill the color back in her cheeks. She looked up at me while I was waiting and asked me why I did all of that for her–being her crutch, talking to her, getting her to the front of the line, making sure she was okay.
As I reflected on that question, I thought back to each moment that woke me up to who she was. When I got back to the tent and she was still there by herself, when she winced because she couldn’t walk on her own, when I heard the disappointment in her voice when she told me her story…Each of those moments clicked something in my heart, and it made me realize why I did it.
So, I kneeled down, and the heat of the summer and booming of the bands seemed to still for a moment. She sat slumped with her hands folded in her lap under the red canopy next to the other injured patrons of the tour. When I looked her in the eyes, I made sure she knew she was the only one in that tent that I was talking to, and I said, “It’s because you matter.” Softly and almost imperceptibly, tears rolled down her cheeks from underneath her sunglasses.
The beautiful truth about every person you’ll ever meet is that if you take enough time to slow down, you’ll see they matter too.