We attend a large downtown church. There are sometimes homeless people who come in for Mass, maybe to worship or maybe just to get in out of the weather.
Our dear Father Fleming, who we all miss so much in the parish since his passing, told the story of one of the many homeless people he knew, a man who would stand at the big intersection downtown asking passing drivers for money. He had a sign he'd hold up. But he couldn't read. One day he grabbed a sign from under the overpass and emerged to stand in his spot, holding a piece of cardboard scrawled with "Pregnant. Please help."
I've always loved that story. I bet he got a lot of money that day.
Right or wrong, we've given these folks money. I've stood in the back of the church and given bus fare to some guy to get home for a funeral, for example. A tall tale? Perhaps. We "pay the toll" (that's what we tell the kids) at that intersection on Sunday mornings, giving a little money to whoever has claimed that territory at the time. It's a tough decision, whether to give or not. Whatever they are going to do with the money, there is a human being with a story, and likely a tragic one, behind the asking.
This past Sunday after church Mr. P was approached by an old woman. She was mostly toothless and resembled one of those dried apple dolls. Her gray hair was long, stringy, and dirty. She was wearing what looked like medical scrubs that had seen better days, and bedroom slippers on her feet. She had a big smile and she wanted a ride home.
After some discussion to ensure she really knew the way, we brought the truck around and loaded her into the front seat. (I sat in the back so Bear wouldn't be frightened by this pretty odd looking stranger sitting next to him.)
She told us a little about her family, including two grown children who live out of state. She said she had graduated eighth grade, but had some problems and didn't go on. She had a case worker. She was to be moved from the house she was living in to a nursing home the next day.
As she talked our GPS, with her address entered, guided us into the worst area of Nashville. We pulled up to a dilapidated house, Mr. P helped her out of the truck, and she thanked us. She really hadn't wanted to ride the bus.
We drove away and Mr. P noted that it wasn't very often people like us, in our luxury SUV and fancy clothing, found ourselves in that kind of neighborhood. Whatever we might be worried about or consider to be a problem on any given day, a little side trip like this certainly provides fresh perspective on it. We continued on to Costco where we proceeded to buy, in bulk, whatever we needed.
We are blessed and must remember at all times to be thankful.
Her name was Kathryn Louise and she had a big smile. I am keeping her in my prayers along with another Kathryn Louise I know who also has a big smile in spite of everything.
Don't forget about the contest. Tomorrow evening I draw the winner!