Pieces of her story
October 18, 2008
I had two errands today. To go get some jalapenos and to mail a few things that I didn’t put out in time for the mail carrier to come get. I planned to drive through Sonic after the post office for a vanilla coke with a side of jalapenos (homemade salsa is addictive.)
So I got to the post office a couple minutes after it closed and had to go through that drive through too. That of course meant that that I missed the last pickup too so my mail run was for naught. But there was this woman standing on the curb by the post office exit. She’d been standing there the whole time I was in the parking lot and had a carry-on size piece of luggage.
I pulled up to turn on to the street and she looked at me and held up the sign she had in here hand. It was written on ballpoint on a sheet of loose leaf. The wind was strong enough that the paper was flapping so that the only thing that I could read was “for food.” It’s getting cooler but I’m still wearing shorts and she had on a winter coat. She looked like she could be someones grandma.
So I decided I’d go to CVS instead of Sonic and pick-up some trail mix for her along with my jalapenos. When I pulled back around she was gone from the post office. And then I looked around and she was sitting on the window sill at the convenience store next door, with her coat on her bag, smoking a cigarette. I didn’t stop.
Thing is, I don’t know what she really needs, or what the right thing is to do. Maybe I’ll hold on to the cranberry trail mix so I’ll have a better plan next time. And I don’t mean that “dang, I was dooped and now I’m stuck with the cranberries.” But she is a person, with a life, and a family, and a story and obviously a difficult one at that. And I can’t do anything that will make a real difference, or not be patronizing. Or maybe it is that I’m unwilling to. All I have is the fragments that I gleaned from observation of this women, nothing that tells me anything about who she really is.
Stephanie had the youth do an exercise a few weeks ago. They all started by making bags to give to the homeless with a granola bar and a Vienna sausage and an apple sauce. They then had a scavenger hunt to look for their dinner. Everywhere they went they were turned away until they found the homeless bags that they had made waiting for them in the sanctuary. And man did they not like that twist. Apparently not everyone like Vienna sausages like I do. But it’s obviously no grand gesture to give away the food you’re not willing to eat. It humbles you a little, and makes you think about person-hood apart from status and possessions. So even though I got to be the one denying my spaghetti to the youth, I think I learned a lesson too. Because today I felt a little something extra. And it wasn’t good. I think that’s called empathy. And praise God for that.