Gracie woke up, once again in pain from a horrible night's sleep. She groans as she hauls herself out of bed, inching towards the bathroom mirror. Her dreary eyes stare into the mirror. Another long day lay ahead of her.
Gracie looks down over the looming pile of medical bills. She downs another pill. With a dead mother, and a dead-beat dad, she faces this agony alone. She walks down the apartment stairs, hastily rushing to open the door for a struggling mother of four. The mother’s arms are full with two babies, two restless toddlers and an over packed stroller.
Gracie walks down the block, giving a high-five to her favorite man of the street. His half-full donation tray rings with a few new coins from her purse. She walks a few more blocks, stopping every few feet to rest her muscles and breath in the strong winter air.
After her short walk she enters Mal’s Coffee Shop. She takes a seat by her favorite window, eagerly awaiting a fresh brew. An elderly couple comes in, the wife shivering from the cold. Gracie watches the couple search the shop, perusing for a place to rest. After a look around, Gracie stands up and motions over the couple to take her spot. Even with her issues, she knows her twenty-year-old legs would last longer than that couples.
Gracie grabs her cup and heads out the door. The warm cup keeps her tired and cold hands awake for the walk home. She walks an extra block on the way back. Staring at the street corner she shudders. For a moment she relives the crash. The thought of her mom’s piercing scream as the truck hit the driver side. The glass reflects the brake lights and sparks of metal as it flies through the air.
Gracie is suddenly brought back to the now as a splash of water flies on her from an inconsiderate driver. Drenched, Gracie walks home, ready for a hot bath. She turns on the water, watching the steam catch the apartment’s air and twirl in circles around her head. She undresses, ready to step in when the phone rings. An old friend. Tears spew from the speaker. Gracie leaves the tub to cool on its own.
Grabbing the phone she learns of a miscarriage, a broken dream and a mourning family. She sank down to the ground, tearing up. The tears turn into words, the words go on for hours. Gracie awake in the early morning; phone in hand, body on the hard floor. Something is wrong. The power is out. The cold winter is freezing the apartment with each gust of wind.
Today is going to be as hard as the thin carpet flooring. Today was the diagnosis. Did the medicine work? Had anything changed? Gracie gets up and puts on her coat as she heads down the stairs towards the parking garage. The mother of four once again needs assistance. Gracie grabs an almost forgotten blanket as mom attempts to unlock the van. The children run in circles as mom fastens in baby one of two.
Gracie walks to her old Toyota Camry. The engine hums as she warms herself with the miniscule heat from the fans. She drives away, her car and her body on a mission to make it in one piece to the hospital. The drive appears to never end. She takes the final left turn into the parking lot. Her brake engages, but she isn’t fully planted in the place she is at. This day could change it all, for better or worse.
She walks the lone white halls, passing room after room of hopeful people with disheartening possibilities. Nonetheless, her smile shines bright towards everyone she meets. Finally, she sits down outside of the door. The large brown door. The door she loved and hated. Minutes drag by as hours until she hears her name.
Gracie takes a deep breath and walks towards the office. She grabs the black door handle, turning it slowly, hoping to prevent the inevitable. The doctor’s gloomy face already tells her of the possibilities. She is dying, and no amount of medicine or rest is going to change that.
The bomb drop. The expiration date. The final days. All now resting on her shoulders. She closes her eyes and asks, “Why? Why was I even put on this Earth?” A whooshing sound causes Gracie to reopen her eyes. The doctor stares at her. He is different, but she isn’t sure how. The room itself seemed brighter. He stares at her the way no one had ever looked at her. “Gracie, having a home and a big career doesn’t make you more of a complete human. Making mistakes, taking chances, helping others and living for today is what puts breath in your lungs,” he says. He continues, “Every time we take a step outside our doors, we are given golden opportunities. We are given the chance to help the widow and the orphan, the abused and the poor, the elderly and the grieving.”
Gracie looks down. She shakes her head as tears well up in her eyes. She feels a warm presence next to her. She looks back up to see the doctor standing next to her. “Gracie,” he says, “You are not those things. But, you have been the difference in those people’s lives. The four fatherless children and their widow mother saw you as a helpful light. The abused man on the street saw a helping hand, not only with his financial needs but also with the emotional support that comes from someone who cares. The elderly couple had just come from their own son’s funeral. Losing your seat was a small inconvenience to you, but sitting in the last place they spoke to their son meant the world to them.”
Gracie stands up quickly, confused about the doctor’s vast knowledge of her life. His calming stare appears to look through her. He leans in for a hug. “Reach towards golden opportunities, Gracie. You can be the turning point for a new walk of life for someone,” he says.
Gracie hugs him back. As she turns to leave the office she looks at the once black handle. The sign of a dead end has become a shimmering handle of gold. She takes a step out of the office, deciding never to go back. Her drive home is just a few miles, but it is filled with so many learning opportunities. She sees the burning home down the street. The schoolyard filled with kindergarteners running around the play set. She looks at the couple running down the street with their dog. And, she sees the dad helping his daughter back onto her bike after a fall.
She goes upstairs and rummages in her bathroom to grab nail polish. A quick amateur paint job makes the door handle shimmer with golden polish. Gracie whispers to herself, “A turning point towards a golden opportunity.”