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!


Belle said...

That was a lovely thing to do. I am sure that she will be thinking of you and your family for a long time to come.

mo.stoneskin said...

We so easily forget to be thankful, despite having much to be thankful for.

Amo said...

I am often grateful and saddened when God takes these moments to remind us of his own experience here on earth...

Missy said...

What a great post. I don't have a hard time keeping our lives in perspective. I often find myself reminding my husband that life could be so much worse and that I am grateful for everything we do have.

Sheri @ www.careergirlinterrupted.com said...

It's hard isn't it? Not the giving of the cash, but the other stuff that goes along with it. The emotional toll or tug, the weighing of your child's safety who's sitting in the backseat against the good you're doing to help someone while you drive into a bad neighborhood, all of that.

I just blogged about being aggravated with my neighbor for various reasons - but yet, i have a house. i have a safe yard for my kids to play. we're not all that lucky.

Busy Mom said...

Father Fleming :,(

On a less deep note:

They tell the story of Bobby whose "territory" was by your church.

Bobby was well known to the church staff and they supported him as best they could and he worked the area daily.

One day, they noticed he hadn't been around for a few days and someone on staff (Fr. Kibby maybe?)called from vacation and reported a Bobby sighting on the beach in Destin.


Amy said...

Busy Mom - Hey, was Kibby kidding? Cause he would totally think that was funny.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

The kindness you showed her will probably live on in mind for a great while as I'm sure she doesn't experience many people willing to do what you and your family did for her.

Amy, you are a bigger person than I and this post only serves to exemplify that beauty is not only what we wear on the outside, it's what radiates from the inside. Your family is utterly beautiful.

Amy said...

Auds - Thanks so much. There is always so much more we all can do, but still every little thing matters.

evenshine said...

Amy, this was a great post. Perspective is so important. We're blinded by our surroundings so much that at times it's hard to see beyond. I saw a photo of the Dalai Lama serving food at a soup kitchen in San Francisco, and this brought it back to me. It's in the smallest actions that we show love.
Well done.

Bananas said...

Amy thank you for this post. It is lovely and such a great reminder of how lucky we are.

I love this line, "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." Very well sad.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Perspective is an amazing amazing thing isn't it? What a powerful, passionate reminder.

Felicia said...

I once had a very dear friend tell me, "You are not responsible for their actions (i.e. what they do with the money you give to them.) You are responsible for your own (i.e. choosing to give)."

Amy said...

Felicia - That is the best way to put it!! Thanks for sharing that.

Pop and Ice said...

Someone else who gives rides to those in need! I'm sure my daughter thought I was the only crazy one to do that. However I have explained my rules:

1. Must be female or female with children only.
2. Usually only offer in bad weather - so it's usually Moms and kids at bus stops.

We offered a Mom and her daughter a ride home on a horribly snowy/icy-hail day right before Christmas. They didn't live near us, but I wasn't about to let two people, one without boots, stand out there waiting for a bus that God knows when might show up.

I think God looks out for me and sometimes we have to look beyond ourselves to see those in need.

Musings of the Mrs. said...

I love that story. It makes me tear up, but I love it.

Unknown said...

What a kind and generous thing to do and how funny that other people's circumstances enable us to put things in perspective.

Ellen aka Ellie said...

I'm so tired, so I'm going to be lazy and not read your comments--there are so many! May I please not be redundant...

There is a great song, "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't his Hands healing?" (It's by Casting Crowns.)

In this story, this true story, you were His arms.

There's another song I like--the lyric goes, "Break my heart for what breaks yours." To open yourself up to that heartbreak is to be closest to Him.

God's smiling on your sweet family!

moosh in indy. said...

A true Christian example.
Both in deed and Costco.

Chris said...

Touching story. It's easy to think of the homeless as being "invisible" but they are real people with, as you said, real stories. I'm sure most of them are truly heart-breaking.

Great writing, as well!

Take care,

JCK said...

So many people avoid doing something like that, and then wonder later what it would have been like. You gave her the gift of a ride, and she gave you the gift of being grateful for you life. Lovely on all accounts.

2 Little Irish Boys said...

What a sweet gesture! I love stories like this even though others aren't as fortunate as we are. I am just down the rode from you in Franklin TN!!

Unknown said...

What a beautiful reminder to keep an open heart in this time of need for so many!
Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

I know the parish. I knew Fr. Fleming. I became acquainted with those who begged. Fr. Fleming didn't mind begging on the steps of the sanctuary, but he would not allow begging in it.

He and Fr. James Pratt gave some of the best short noon Mass homilies I've ever heard.

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