This one’s going to ramble a bit. I need to work my head around it.
Yesterday Allena and I went shopping for Christmas, and we left all the kids at home with Dominic. It was almost like a date. We stopped at a couple of stores, and while walking back to our car, this homeless lady asked us for some money. We didn’t have any cash, but we offered to take her to get her something to eat. She turned us down, but you could tell she was interested in the idea.
I think most people would have taken the out, but we pressed her, and she accepted. We ended up at a Subway so we could get a hot sandwich for her. My original thought was we’d get the sandwich and be on our way. It ended up going very differently. Once we got her to Subway, we couldn’t get her to order. She wanted us to order, so we could all eat together. (We of course, had eaten lunch just a little earlier). I finally ended up ordering a foot-long sub, that we could share. The guy working the counter gave her a bowl of soup – I guess he helps her out sort of regularly – and I got her some cookies as well. I think she originally wanted to eat the soup, and just have company, but ultimately I ate a quarter of the sandwich, and she ate a quarter of it. We were unable to get her to take the left over half, or the cookies, or even the soup that the Subway guy gave her. She even had a can of stew and two dollars that she tried to give us, but more on that later.
By this time Allena and I had both come to the conclusion that this lady was a little “off”. She wanted to show us where she slept (NB: in hindsight, it was stupid of us to go with her to her little campsite – it could easily have been a setup for a mugging. God looks after the idiots I guess). She was proud of her cardboard, and she had a little bit of a piece of brush sticking out of the ground that she called her “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree”, and she had a rock she was really proud of – it had a fossil of a sea-shell in it that was perfectly heart shaped. She had told us that she had a blanket and that it was hidden, but she flip-flopped on that one several times. I think she didn’t have one.
We told her we wanted to get her a sleeping bag or some blankets. She didn’t want any part of that. She kept saying that cardboard was really pretty warm. I finally told her that I was going to go get her a sleeping bag, and that I was going to bring it back to her campsite, and that if she didn’t want it she could give it away to somebody else. So she came along to Walmart with us. She kept worrying that we would be embarrassed by her. Truth be told, I could see why she might worry – she said and did some pretty odd things, but nothing too bad. My kids have done worse.
By the time we had the sleeping bag, it was after dark. She had us take her to a place back behind a used car lot. I guess they have a vehicle there that they don’t lock – she climbs in and sleeps in it on really cold nights. It took her 20 minutes to finally get out of the car. I think she really didn’t want to go. We kept inviting her home with us, but she wouldn’t have it.
We spent a couple of hours with her all told. We talked some about faith. She said she’d never had time for God until she was homeless. We invited her to church with us. Again, she was worried that she’d embarrass us or that her clothes would not be good enough. She finally agreed to be picked up to go to church with us today. We all dressed down – jeans and t-shirts, so she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. I didn’t even shave. She didn’t show up at the place we were supposed to meet, which we half-way expected to happen anyway.
The whole thing has had me very thoughtful since. I’ve worried about our debts and such, but we still have a house, and 3 vehicles, and more food than we can eat, and the list of our blessings goes on and on. This gal had the clothes on her back and some cardboard and a couple of rocks, and that. is. it. I’ve worried about how I won’t be able to spend that much on my kids for Christmas, and she doesn’t have any one to even share Christmas dinner with. We gave her a nice gift of a sleeping bag if you want to call that a Christmas gift, but she was worried about taking it because she was afraid somebody else would just steal it from her.
It really leaves me with a low opinion of myself. Not the fact that I helped her out as much as I could (and as much as she’d let us). I just feel like I must be incredibly spoiled because my worries are petty compared to hers.
What would it be like to spend a week on the street? She said she’d been there just over a year. Could I make it a week? Would I beg for food or money? I have so many other resources – family, friends, etc. that I’d have to exhaust a *lot* of possibilities before I was on the street. Plus, I have sense enough to make use of the services available to homeless people – but how long would that last? I think this lady’s mental problems are probably due to being alone and being scared for a long long time.
I guess I’ll close. I still feel this swimming circles in my head, but I can’t think of anything else to say. Say a prayer for the homeless if you read this. And remember the phrase “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.