Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homeless But Not Hopeless


After a 24-hour period of intense babysitting, I was off for some “Me Time.”

(“Errands.”)

My favorite store in Beverly Hills was having its End-Of-Summer Clearance sale.  I needed to check out the t-shirts.

I made a fairly quick get-away, trying to flee before I was called back for one reason or another. Multi-tasking, I mapped out my destination while texting my goodbyes. Then I gunned it down the street. With a flick of the wrist, I smoothly switched lanes in my borrowed BMW, anxious to make the light.

But I didn’t.

***************

I spotted her out of the corner of my eye.

Just another one of the many thousands of homeless people holding placards in L.A.

She stood on a narrow archipelago of median, clutching a handwritten sign.

Cars careened past her on the other side of the skinny space. “I hope she’s not drunk,” I thought. “She might fall right into oncoming traffic.”

I hesitated for a second; pretended to be busy with my cell phone; then, finally, reached for my purse and dug around for my wallet.

My peripheral vision caught the steady stream of rejections from the cars at the front of the turn lane.  For some reason, I put the car in “Park” as I searched for my wallet in the cavernous depths of my purse, causing it to jerk slightly forward. She looked at me then, a little tentatively, accustomed to rejection and recoil from people like me. I rolled down the window and looked up at her, meeting her eyes for the first time. Beckoning her to me with a slight nod.

She was older than I am. By how much, it’s hard to say.

Still… that’s old for a woman to be living on the streets.

Her hair was short and graying. She had on jeans and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. Mickey was smiling broadly.

She held a cardboard sign up to her chest:

Homeless
but not
Hopeless


I grabbed a bill, checking to make sure it wasn’t a $20.

It was a five.

I thrust it out the window. Her face exploded with joy, exposing a mouth devoid of any top teeth.

“You are so generous!” she effused.

“Take care of yourself,” I mumbled before rolling the window back up.


I thought of a million different things I could have said in the interminable amount of time it took for the light to change. I thought about calling her back over. Giving her something more. More money… better words… more hope…

The light changed.


I tried very hard not to mess up my eye makeup on the way to Beverly Hills.

But it was hopeless.


***************

There are no words.

No words.


Other than

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

6 comments:

Ashley said...

When I was on a mission trip and I saw hundreds of orphans that would never have a mom or a dad or a home it seemed so hopeless. But then someone made the comment that although to us it seemed hopeless with God nothing is hopeless.

Anonymous said...

Years ago when we lived in another city where the homeless were in large proportions (because the city was larger), I grappled with what I could do to make a difference - there seemed to be people on every corner. Then it was suggested that just as I prepared a sack lunch for my children for school, I could prepare sacks for the homeless. Each time I would go to the grocery store, I would pick up pre-packed peanut butter and crackers and the tuna and cracker packs. Then I picked up juice boxes and snack pack cookies. I would make up several of these "lunch sacks" and carry them in my car. When I was stopped at a light or when I saw someone in need, I had a "cup of water". I also placed a quarter attached to a card with a phone number for a local center where they could receive further assistance. I know in the scheme of things it was only a very small gesture, but confronted with the need of a person, someone that could be me but for different circumstances, it was something tangible.

Kim Arnold said...

What a wonderful idea!

When we lived in Westwood, I tried to get gift certiicates to the Burger King on the corner, but it never worked out.

At one point, Middle Child bought about 20 hamburgers and passed them out in Santa Monica, where the homeless sleep overlooking the ocean. Tip of the iceberg, of course.

I'll go load up on snacks and juice at Trader Joe's!

Anne H. said...

Kim,
My sister in-law who lives in San Antonio makes bags for the homeless too. She uses large ziplock bags and has them loaded up with snacks that won't spoil easily and a bottle of water. I love the idea of the quarter and a phone number for a homeless shelter etc. She just keeps them right under her driver seat and passenger seat so they are easy to grab.
Our Holy and Sovereign Lord will use that moment with the homeless woman for His Glory and to draw you closer to Him Kim- He'll also use it in her life (in His own amazing and magnificent way)- Praise be to God!

Scott and Emily Koenig said...

Hi Kim,

We've never met, but I've been reading your blog (I went to Samford with Katherine). I am the oldest of three girls...I told my Mom about your blog and she reads it now too. Today at church, I overheard her telling two other ladies about Modern Day Margery. I just thought you should know how much we are inspired by what God is doing in your life and by your honesty. Thank you!

Emily (Klotz) Koenig

Kim Arnold said...

That is so sweet! Thank you. (And your mom!)