I’ve come to suspect it’s a living truth that we want to give the world what we most need, and when we do, it comes right back to us.
“Hi, do you want a protein bar?” I said to the old Black homeless woman sitting on a park bench alone away from the crowd of homeless people milling about in Prichard Park.
I had already gifted away the bags I had made to younger folks on the other side of the park. But as I left, looking for the old man I had seen a few weeks ago, I saw her on the bench by the toilets, alone, calmly watching the world go by. Her spirit called, shining in her eyes.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Chocolate brownie.” I said, hoping she’d like the flavor.
“Yea- thank you. God bless you.”
“Thanks, bless you too!” I took a bar out and handed it to her. But it was hard to walk away.
“What else do you need?” I couldn’t resist asking.
“What do you have?” she asked.
“I have nothing right now. But I’ll come back for you. Do you need things for the winter?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought that far ahead.”
“Do you have a warm hat?”
“Do you have warm gloves?”
“Do you have warm socks or a scarf?”
“Ok- well I’ll come back and bring you some. What size do you wear?”
“In what? shoes or dress?” She asked.
“Both.” I said.
“I wear a 10 – 1/2″ in shoes and a 10 or a 12 in dress.”
“But you’re so tiny! Are you sure?” I couldn’t imagine how she’d fit a size 12.
“Yea. I like comfortable clothes. None of that small medium. I don’t like that Medium.”
I laughed. “OK. So where can I find you? Here?”
“Well- I don’t know. I got places to go. I’m trying to take the 5 o’ clock bus to go see my Dad. I move around you know. You tell me when you’ll come.”
I pause. Logistics…”I can come back in two weeks on Sunday.”
“Ok- well if I’m not here you can give the stuff to someone else who needs it. You just put it on the wall, they’ll take it from there. Wait, no it’s better to talk to a person. You don’t know what’ll happen to the stuff if you just leave it.”
“Yea- well, I’ll see if I can come by sooner.” I said, realizing this was a thin plan.
I walked away, wondering how to make it work. As we drove away I wondered if I could run out and get her some warm things before she possibly took the bus. She didn’t look too worried about anything so I worried she’d go without. It was 4:38pm, and if she got to the 5 o’ clock bus I’d surely miss her.
Driving away didn’t feel right. I found 11 dollars between the glove box and the change pocket in the car. It wasn’t much, but it was something. I asked my partner to swerve back around, I had to catch her.
She was heading into the toilet, I caught her just in time. I called out- “Hi, you! Hold on!” She stopped. “I don’t know if I’ll catch you again, but here’s eleven dollars. Go buy some warm stuff at Goodwill.”
“Yea you right. I was going to go there. There’s two of ’em.”
“Yea you can probably buy some warm socks and gloves with this and maybe a hat too.”
“Once someone gave me warm boots and they were black and and so warm they cleared my digestion right up!” she shared brightly.
“I believe that.” I said, feeling the pain that perhaps she herself couldn’t feel, imagining what going cold and hungry does to a stomach. I saw her wrinkled hand holding the money lightly, spread out.
“Well it isn’t much but put it away in a safe place.” I said.
“No, no- it’s a miracle!” she cried. “See God loves me and God loves you!”
“Yea God does love us.”I said.
“And I love you!” She added, eyes smiling.
“I love you too. You’re so beautiful, you know?” I said. It was all over her face- radiance, contentment, surrender.
“No, no, you’re beautiful! It takes one to know one!” She said.
We both laughed.
“God bless you lady!” She said. “And your soul! May God keep you safe.”
And I walked away laughing crying.
I’d prayed that morning that I would give to the homeless with humility and grace, and here I was receiving the same.
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