I met a street person named Delores as I was biking down NE 33rd Street several nights ago. As I was crossing the bridge over Interstate 5, there she was, pushing a shopping cart, looking haggard. I couldn’t help feeling compassion for her. I thought that, no matter what kind of choices she’s made in her life, surely this woman shouldn’t be dealing with hunger and homelessness. Not here in America.
As I was passing her on the bridge, I saw that her face was leathery and full of lines. It had the look of prolonged hardship in it. I was well past her when I decided to stop and go back. I caught up with her on the other side of the bridge and gave her the only cash I had on me—seven dollars. Very little, but it could mean a more comfortable evening for her. I tried not to be concerned about her buying alcohol with the money. Doesn’t God give us blessings when much of the time we just spend them on things we know He wouldn’t approve of? So I dismissed the thought.
When I gave her the money, she thanked me with the unfazed look of someone whose whole life is unscripted. Then she asked me if I wanted a piece of pizza. “Sure!” I said heartily, just to be nice. I expected something at least a day old and totally congealed, but I was amazed when it turned out to be warm from the oven! Apparently it had just been given to her by someone at the Blind Onion up the street. It was delicious.
I introduced myself and shook her hand, having resolved to approach her as I would any person in a social setting. What I was trying to do could easily have been undone if she had perceived that I pitied her or was merely checking off my good deed for the day. I was surprised by how quickly her features lifted. She seemed to be pleasantly caught off guard by my use of formal etiquette with her.
I was impressed by how cheerful she was. Being an artist (super-sensitive, etc), I can usually tell when someone is putting on false cheer. She was not. However she does it, she manages to go through her hard life without being bitter. She may well have much to be bitter about. Perhaps she lost her house and all her savings in the Great Recession (plenty of people in that boat), or any of a hundred other unpleasant scenarios. Whatever brought her to this station in life, she possesses a grace that eludes most people who are much better off. Her giving me the slice of pizza still floors me.
I saw Delores again this evening as I went into the Wendy’s on Sandy Blvd. She was her usual cheerful self. We had each forgotten the other’s name, but she remembered about my affiliation with Teen Challenge. I thanked her again for the pizza and told her how good it had tasted. She agreed. It turns out that it had originally been more like half a pizza before the several slices she ate. Good for her. It does my heart good to know that someone like Delores received an offering of delectable, still-warm pizza.
As I rode home, I suspected that God meant for me to encounter this woman. I haven’t been too cheerful lately. Meeting Delores helped me to remember how good I have it. Someone once said, “I used to cry because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”