“The lady on the block”
In the midst of Sabbatical, as everything has been slower for me this month, I am noticing things, smells, sights, things in nature, tastes, sounds and even people that I had not seen before.
One particular person caught my attention on day 2 of my Sabbatical. As I was preparing to park on my street, I noticed her eyes first as they looked so heavy. Her long hair disheveled along with her clothes as well. She sat on the ground in a pile of unfolded clothes behind a car and up against a fence. I wondered to myself, “I wonder what her story is? I know its my Sabbatical, everyone said I need to rest, but what about her, does she get any rest… ever?”. I said a little prayer and went inside my house. A gnawing at my heart continued, which for me means I need to go say hello.
Upon greeting her and asking her name I asked if she needed water. (Not sure why that was the first thing I asked, but those who know me know I love to give Alkaline water to people). She immediately teared up. She had not had any water in 3 days. Her lips and mouth were dry and her skin dull. The weather, although warm here, is super dry during the day and damp and cold at night. A simple question, “would you like some water”, turned into a couple hour long conversation about her recent life occurrences. Originally, from Florida, she recently buried her 25 year old son and after that was beaten up and robbed. She quickly transitioned from this heavy topic to her heart for animals. One kind grey dog was sitting near by who she was currently tending to.
I found myself as I often do, wondering out of all these words she was sharing, what parts are true and what parts are not? But does that really impact how I listen or care for her? Does that matter in light of just deeply desiring that she would feel truly seen and heard? Is it my job to figure out what is true and what isn’t? I don’t think so. At one point during our conversation ,as she shared about doing CPR on a dog at one point, I said “wow, you must be part angel. The world needs people like you”. She immediately responded in tears, “no one has ever said that to me in my entire life and I am 50 years old”. I said, “well it’s true”. We had a long pause in conversation but it was ok. After bringing her a jug of fresh water and some essential oils for her sore throat, I watched her give the first bowl full of fresh water to the cute grey dog and the first cough drop to her friend. We connected over a potential place for her to be in doors in a new large structure that was recently built nearby for the homeless. We got her connected to that service, and then I said she is welcome to come by to have her water refilled as soon as she was out.
Some of the things that she shared that have stuck with me this week were “I always want to watch out for others that are out here. I help people find food and find clothes and shoes that fit them. I don’t need much, just some water and clean hair if I am lucky. I try not to bother anybody. I keep my area clean and tidy as I don’t want to be an eye sore. I don’t use drugs usually, but occasionally people think I am police because I am clean, so instead of getting beat up, I will take a hit just to prove that I am not. Do you know what it’s like to be a woman and live out here? Do you know how cold it gets at night? Its hard. Its really hard and really scary. I always wonder where my next meal will come from. I always wonder what will happen to me, even if I sleep for 30 minutes. The last time I did that, I got beat up by another homeless lady. Why would the homeless hurt and steal from other homeless. I don’t get it.” I mostly listened that day to her and also told her that I cared about what she was saying and that it mattered to me.
There were many more things that she said that day that have stuck with me. But I wonder, how many people on a daily basis are in my path or yours that we just don’t see. We don’t acknowledge, we don’t say hello, much less ask how they are. I am always in such a rush. But really, for what? Do I really need to move so fast? I have learned in this Sabbatical for during this month and after, I need to move more slowly. To think about the reasons I often don’t stop. I know mostly I am scared or I think I will be taken advantage of. But what about love. Lets love those who are put in our path. It may just be a simple smile or looking into their eyes. I am convinced that the person is in my path for a reason.
I said several prayers for her after our first encounter. Two days later, when I came home, I noticed at least 5 cop cars and an ambulance near the area where she sat on the ground. I walked down there and did not see her or her belongings. I asked one of our other neighbors what happened, and they said they had put a woman in the ambulance. That is all I know. Could it be her? The ambulance was there for a long time and the lights were not on. Did she make it? Was she hurt? I don’t know that I will ever know the answers to my questions… but I am grateful for the hours we had together. It mattered. She matters.