Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hungry and Humiliated

That's what the handwritten sign said. I could not bear to look into the face of the woman holding it. I knew my wallet was empty. So I pulled up beside her and tried to find a position that would keep my peripheral vision from catching a reminder that she was there. Hungry and Humiliated. The red light seemed to last for 20-minutes. Finally I decided I couldn't drive away without handing her something, so I pulled a half dozen coins from the bottom of my purse and rolled down the window. "I'm sorry, I don't have much." I said. "That's okay," she replied, with a tone of compassion that invited me to love her. I looked into her face as she reached for 78-cents. "Everything helps," she said, returning the eye contact. She was strikingly beautiful. And present. And young. She could easily have been a girl one of my sons brought home from college. I squeezed her hand, and told her to drink water. Yep - that's it. 78-cents and the free advice to drink water to avoid heat stroke on a Texas summer day. That was all I gave her. As I drove away from the busy intersection, I was hyper-aware of the cold blowing AC in my sporty new car and the long list on the seat beside me that was about to turn into a basket of abundance at Whole Foods. And the just-opened bottle of cold spring water in my cup holder. She was so young and so pretty. Hungry and Humiliated. I know you hope I turned my car around. I hope all of you would have done that. I didn't. I did my grocery shopping, and was halfway home before I thought about stopping for some cash and heading back to the corner where she stood, hungry and humiliated. I wondered how much money it would take to get her off the street before the temperature reached boiling point on the asphalt. Then I caught the time. Awfully close to a lunch date. So I went home. "I'll go by on my way to lunch," I told myself. I didn't. By the time I finished lunch with friends, and put my over-filled body into my cool, sporty car, it was 103-degrees outside. I went straight to an ATM machine and got $20. As I approached the intersection, I was hoping she wasn't still standing in the heat. I wondered if I'd insist she get into my car. I was embarrassed I'd only gotten $20. I was imagining how I would explain our house guest to my husband and sons. She was gone, of course. No one can stand in the middle of cars on pavement for too long on a summer day in Texas. As I left the intersection, I hoped she was sitting by a pool somewhere with friends and a tall glass of iced-tea. I wondered if she was safe. I imagined that she was. I was embarrassed I hadn't offered her more when I had the opportunity.
Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He replied, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." - Jesus
Just Humiliated. - Me


Anonymous said...

i had athose same feelings the other day as I when I handed a man a paltry $3.00 instead of $20.00 and he looked me in the eye with a smile and said "God Bless You".

To my chagrin, I imagined those in traffic behind me muttering under their breath at me for being an enabler or rewarding someone who won't get a "real" job.

If it weren't for a good credit rating, I could be standing on the street corner right now.

Mama de la Paz said...

I know some amazing people...people who continue to show me how to be my best self. One of them is Carol. Here's what she did Tuesday after reading this post:

I know the intersection you were writing about. I've seen the woman before. I got some ice, a half dozen bottles of water, and some of the lunches the children's Sunday school gave me to take to soup kitchen and started out. She wasn't there but other people were. Then I went to nearby intersections. I gave each person an ice cold bottle of water and a sack lunch. Every one of them immediately took the top off that water and began to drink. One guy was attacking the sack lunch as I looked in my rearview mirror. I had a pocket full of $5's but never handed any out. Not sure why exactly, but I think maybe I was reserving them for "Hungry and Humiliated" girl. Still thinking about how to continue this idea.

Pretty cool, huh?