When I was on my way to school early in the morning two days ago, I spotted an African-American woman in her 50s sitting on the bus bench in front of Applebee’s along Grand Avenue.
She covered her head with a hood and wore layers upon layers of clothing – all alone and huddling underneath a thin blanket. She had a duffel bag with her. My parents had spotted her a couple of times wandering precariously around the Walnut area for at least couple of months now.
I couldn’t believe that she spent her night there. I couldn't imagine how she could stay out there for the entire night with temperatures 37F and below. I could barely spend five minutes in the freezing cold outside myself. My heart ached when I thought of her.
I knew I had to do something – anything. Maybe all she needed was to be shown a bit of kindness.
Right after I came back from my school in the evening, I still saw the homeless woman. She had covered herself from head to toe with the ragged blanket. She was there alone.
I was scared to approach her by myself, so my mom accompanied me. I wanted to buy dinner for her and I decided to ask her.
I quietly said, "Excuse me."
She coughed badly and pulled down the blanket.
I asked openly and gently, "Are you hungry? Do you want some food?"
She started to say rant something about Bible scriptures and warned us not to "sup" with her. She seemed very defensive about us buying food for her. We nodded our heads although we had no idea what she was talking about. She must have faced a lot of isolation and scorn. It broke my heart to see that she condemned herself. She must be emotionally and physically exhausted.
Now I knew I didn’t just want to help her, I had to help her. If everyone passing by just said, “Someone else will take care of her,” then no one would take the time to help her!
Then I asked if she wanted money. She said yes and I gave her a twenty-dollar bill. She said, “thank you,” averting her gaze.
I don’t know how much a twenty-dollar bill can do. I don’t know how much a thirteen year old can do. How can one little act of kindness change the world? But, as Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
And if everyone did an act of kindness every day, perhaps love will once again make the world go round.
It doesn’t matter why she is homeless, whether because of unemployment, addiction, mental illness, or maybe she chose her lifestyle. The fact is being homeless is painful.
Sometimes all people need is a little loving push in the right direction. I know that I can’t stride into her life and make decisions for her. But I can just be there, being present by sending her some food, a blanket, or prayer etc. I may feel powerless to help someone in a difficult situation, but the power of prayer connects me with a powerful God!
Now more and more people are sleeping out on the streets due to the tough economy. I know there are countless homeless people out there. We can’t help them all. But I can’t ignore the only homeless person in my community and not offer a helping hand.
Because I know, if you look into someone’s eyes, you’ll see a galaxy. You’ll see an ever-shifting, never-ending galaxy of stars, held together by the very fragile hold of a universe of memories. The galaxy is the very essence of who they are. I looked into the woman’s eyes and I knew that her galaxy was there – it was just hidden by defensive walls of hardships. That is when it is so important to meet someone’s eyes, to see their galaxy, because although galaxies alone are weak, galaxies interlocked make up an undefeatable universe.
She is still sitting there as of today. So if you see her on the bus bench, you can help her out by buying her food, giving her money or blankets, or praying for her in these especially tough economic times while long-term help is on its way.