I had an interesting experience a while ago. I was walking down a street I normally don’t go down. I saw an older woman in a wheelchair who appeared homeless and as I have been doing for a while, I had some gift cards on me for McDonald’s to give to the homeless. I came over to her and the smell of the air around her kind of confirmed to me she was not a panhandler who had a home to go to, but truly a homeless person.
I introduced myself and asked her name. She kind of seemed startled that I asked her name. I offered her a $5 gift card to McDonald’s. She said she would have trouble getting there, but if I could spare a few moments, could I walk over and get her a Big Mac. I told her it wasn’t quite lunch time yet, what would she like if they were only serving the breakfast menu?
“A sausage biscuit would be great,” she said. I found myself with a few extra minutes. I had had something I had planned on doing, but it wasn’t something I had to do. I really felt called to go to that McDonald’s and get her a sausage biscuit. I thought about it, rather than take the $5 gift card, she asked for a sausage biscuit, which is a little over $1.
I ended up picking up 5 sausage biscuits and two hash browns. I dropped a sausage biscuit and a hash brown with another homeless man named “Bob” on my way back. Reverend Mary, as the woman called herself, looked a little surprised when she saw me walking back to her with the McDonald’s bag. We started talking. She asked if I worked in the area and I said I was a veterinarian who worked all around. She said she did outreach. I thought for a moment, “Hmm, am I actually helping a homeless person or is she one of those people faking homelessness to start a dialogue or do an expose?” Again, my nose provided an answer. I asked who she did outreach for. She said she did outreach and pointed up to the heavens.
I smiled. She was doing outreach. It was a blessing for me to be able to help her and to be reminded of the blessings I have and that I was blessed to be able to help someone like her.
We probably talked for a half hour or so. I felt like I was being called just to be “present” with her. She spoke with me about the struggles of being homeless, how many people perceive that most of the homeless were mentally ill. She told me how most of the homeless had once had jobs and a career and health problems or family problems or other “crosses” in life happened and tore their homes away. She told me how there are people out there trying to document the homeless. Many of the homeless have amazing stories. I worked with a lady in a hospice house who had ended up homeless, but long ago had been married to a Canadian oil baron. It really is a reminder, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
I told Reverend Mary about a quote that is often attributed to Mother Teresa, “God only gives you what you can handle, but sometimes I wish he wouldn’t trust me so much.” She got a kick out of that. She explained to me why she had a newspaper under her hat and that many people think its just because she’s crazy, but that it really blocks the cold wind from her ears. She told me how the homeless are very inventive with the little they have. I told her it was a blessing to meet her and pick up her sausage biscuits and hear her story and it is a blessing to be able to serve her.
I think because she knew I was a veterinarian, she discussed her sores and wounds with me. (I think she had the thought that, as a veterinarian, there probably wasn’t much that can gross us out.) Being in a wheelchair and living on the street had been hard on her body. She told me how she had sought medical treatment but what she really needed was a clean, dry place to stay. She was very matter-of-fact and she never asked me for money or anything more than I offered. She said the homeless shelters don’t have enough room for all of the homeless in the city. I asked her what her plan was and that I was worried she might not make it through the harsh winter. She said she didn’t think she would make it. I asked her if she had heard of a religious order that had a hospice house. She had not and I told her more information about it, as I had volunteered there. I gave her the phone number and address and she got a big smile and said, “Wow, you truly are a blessing.”
What a gift she gave me! Far more than the sausage biscuit and information I gave her, I was left with a beautiful feeling of being able to make a difference, no matter how small it was and in blessing her, I felt blessed. Really, I got the feeling walking away that for all I knew, she could have been Lazarus or an angel and I’ve failed the test more times than I want to know to help those in need around me. But this day, I did make a difference and I did say “Yes” to Jesus and I was blessed.
May we all say yes to Jesus more often and remember that it brings more of a blessing to serve others than to be shy and introverted and ignore the pieces of the world around us that take us out of our comfort zone.
Copyright 2018 Meg Herriot