I parked directly in front of the store and hopped out. Entering the store I was engulfed in my thoughts, “I hope my couponing nemesis hasn’t beaten me to the deal this week. She is always clearing the shelves before anyone else can get to them… I am becoming a real Proverbs 31 wife now. I am saving the family money and making my house into a happy home.” Lucky for me, I beat my rival couponer to the store. I conservatively purchased only two soap deals and left plenty on the shelf for other patrons. Feeling quite proud of myself I left the store. On the way out of Walgreens my thought bubble was pierced by the sound of quiet sobbing. I glanced to locate the source of noise and there sat a woman. She was sitting crossed legged with her back against the brick store front. She had no shoes, and was wearing a very soiled undershirt and a pair of pajama pants. Her face rested in her palms so all that was exposed was a head full of tangled hair. Immediately I was affected by the sight of this distraught woman.
Walking back to my car I could not ignore a nagging knot in my stomach that was presumably telling me to act. But what could I do. I had exactly $19 in cash in my pocket and a long list of things to do. Besides what if she is a psycho or a con artist or a murderer? It was then I looked into my rearview mirror. I could see her still sitting there sobbing uncontrollably. She had not looked up yet. Many people walked out of the store and looked at her as they left. Some pretended not to see her, some shook their heads in disgust and one woman even snatched her child out of the path of the woman when he showed some concern. Then a Bible scripture I committed to memory as a child began to replay in my mind. Jesus was telling the disciples the parable of the sheep and the goats. He tells the disciples,"I was hungry and you fed me... But Lord when were you hungry and we fed you? What you have done unto the least of my brethren you have done unto Me (Jesus).” It was with that thought I sprung out of my car almost as if I had been pushed out by the thought of letting this opportunity pass me.
I walked deliberately back across the parking lot toward the distressed woman at the store front. “What am I going to say?” I thought as I felt the back of my throat dry out and my pulse start to race with anxiety. I said a quick prayer, “Lord give me the words because I have no clue” It was then I thought if I were in distress how might I want someone to approach me? I had reached the store front and the woman. I opened my mouth to speak and nothing came out so I placed my hand on her shoulder to console her. She removed her hands from her face and slowly looked up at me. When her gaze finally met mine only one word could accurately describe the look in her eyes... despair! “Are you o.k.? Do you need help?” I asked. I didn’t even get my complete sentence out before she burst into tear and told me her story.
Although we were strangers she spoke to me like an old girlfriend she had called to confide in. She pulled down her shirt to reveal a pretty nasty wound. She told me her boyfriend beat her up and stabbed her and left her for dead. And that she had been to the emergency room and released and had nowhere to go. She was from another city about an hour away and had no idea how to get home. I asked how long she had been sitting here and she said she had spent the night behind the store.
Then the words just started and before I knew it I was sitting on the wall beside this woman encouraging her like I hadn’t just met her 5 minutes ago. I told her, “You know your attacker, because that is who this man you call you boyfriend is… he is your attacker, he will be back to get you. He will apologize and he will be really sweet and probably seem like he means it ” She interrupted me to tell me yeah he has done that before, “Yes, that is because this is a cycle which means it goes on and on and it wont stop until someone gets really hurt. You are worth more than this kind of life and I don’t know if you go to church but…” She interjected again to tell me that her grandma tried to get her to go to church but her boyfriend doesn’t like that. I nodded in affirmation and continued, “You need to stay around your Grandma. He doesn’t want you around her or church because it will make you strong and he won’t be able to hurt you when you are strong. I know it hurts but you have to stop talking to him. That is not love.” She stopped crying and looked at me strangely as if to say “How in the world did you know?” and then said, “That’s what my Grandma says!” I told her then you had better listen because Gods trying to save your life! She nervously laughed in agreement. She told me it cost $19. to get here on the Greyhound and she only had a few dollars in her pocket. I took that as confirmation that I was to release that money to God in the form of helping this woman out.
She seemed amazed that I gave her the money to get home and shared with me that people had passed her all night and morning and no one even looked twice. “Well, that’s all the more reason to make sure you pay it forward. ” I told her as we stood up. She asked me which direction she would have to take the city bus to get to uptown and I pointed her in the right direction (that in itself is a divine intervention if you know how bad I am with directions.) I hugged the woman and went back to my car. It was time to pick up Mehki.
I had only really completed one thing on my to do list. But strangely that list didn’t seem as urgent anymore. God ministered to me just as much as he ministered to the stranger I met that day. I cannot let fear or "busyness" cloud my mind and heart to the point that I lose basic human compassion. Many people were watching me from their cars and the store front that day. Many in disbelief that I gave that “bum” money. They didn’t say it to me but they didn’t have to; a look is worth 1000 words. A year ago I probably would have agreed with those onlookers. But a year ago I was forced to come face to face with the reality of one of my closest loved ones being forced into homelessness. Every day he was out on the street I feared for him and I wondered, “Is he cold? Is he hungry? Is someone hurting him? Is someone being kind to him? And even though I knew all too well that his current situation was a result of his choices - that didn’t matter at that time. What mattered was that he, at the root of all his choices, was a fellow human being. A human being with all the thoughts desires and feelings that I have. And far be it from me to judge a choice someone has made. Aren’t we all capable of making a choice that can lead us to a path we never thought we would take? So who are we to look down our noses at others we deem lesser. As for me, I think these experiences are the point of it all. Opportunities to be human and participate in the human experience are what make life worth living. Without humanity what is the point of this life? How much we can achieve and acquire? It all seems shallow when staring into the face of despair.