I cried in church today. To a near total stranger.

Three months ago, I lost my church community. I moved to an unknown city with no friends, no family, and no one to lean on – to start my first big-girl job as a professor of chemistry. I spent my first three weeks holed up in my two bedroom apartment, by myself (with my central air, thank goodness), writing lesson plans and lecture notes. If I went to my office, none of my colleagues were there – I was the only soul in the building.

I was alone.

Every church that I went to on Sunday was new and foreign. Sometimes I felt welcome, and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes people noticed me, sometimes they didn’t. As the weeks went on and the start of the school year drew closer, I started to form a community with my colleagues and my students, but it wasn’t the kind of community I needed.

I needed a community of people who knew me – really knew me – and loved me in spite of it. People who genuinely wanted to know how I was doing, how I was coping in spite of it all. People who knew my name and who knew my struggles and my triumphs and what God was doing in my life.

And so we finally come back around to this morning. I got involved in a church fairly quickly. And it should come as no surprise to anyone that I joined the choir. And so this morning, I was late for rehearsal right before the service. I was feeling crappy and hadn’t slept well. But I praised God with everything I had this morning.

After the service, I went over to my choir director and said, “I just wanted to apologize for missing rehearsal this morning. It won’t happen again.”

“I was actually going to come over and tell you thank you for coming! The only people you know at this church weren’t here, and you’re in a section with women twice your age, and you still show up. Bless your heart!”

I started tearing up and she immediately asked, “What’s wrong? Sit down, talk to me.”

And I started talking. She was the first person in weeks to ask how I was doing and genuinely want to know. And by the time I was done, she prayed for me. That prayer, and her time, meant more to me than I can say.

We walk by people on the streets and in our hallways and in our churches, and we don’t stop to ask what’s going on. We just keep running to our next meeting, to pick up the next kid. What if we stopped, and really cared? What if we stopped, and really listened? What if we stopped and prayed with those God puts in our path?

You could make the same difference that my choir director made for me today. And someday, you’re going to need that too.