She was alone, unkempt, unhappy and looking straight at me.
I smiled but she didn’t return the sentiment. She just stared.
We continued on to dinner with some friends from soccer and honestly, I forgot about her.
I forgot about her, that is, until we exited the building and watched her try to assume a comfortable sleeping position on a sidewalk bench. It was then that my heart broke. The bench was made of metal and the breeze was picking up. It was getting cold and it was clear that her circumstances weren’t good.
The kids started asking questions. “Is that lady homeless? Is she okay? Should we give her food? Where do you think she lives?”
We answered the questions as best we could as we pulled out of the parking lot.
Our youngest was distraught. And insistent.
“We need to go back.”
“We need to help her.”
And although we agreed with him in principal, we were well on our way.
We were tired. It was late. We needed to go home. There were school projects to finish. Baths to take. An entire work week to prepare for.
And yet, we could not get her off of our mind.
My own personal internal debate was raging. And I’m ashamed to admit that convenience was winning. That is, until my little one whispered, “But, she is human.”
At that phrase, my husband made a u-turn.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you – I had no idea what to say or how to say it. No idea if she would be angry or grateful. We just knew we had to try.
So I hopped out of the car, walked straight up to her and I asked her if she needed anything. Was she hungry by any chance?
She nodded that she was. I told her that I didn’t have much but she could have every dollar that I had on me. I touched her shoulder, handed her some money and gave her a smile.
She started crying.
SHE. STARTED. CRYING.
And so did I.
I walked back to the car and I bawled.
At that moment I realized that there were so many times in my life I’d not reached out. So many times that I’d turned away or walked by someone in need because I was shy, embarrassed, scared or uncertain.
We are a philanthropic family by nature but we don’t usually experience the type of gratitude that induces tears.
I can’t even describe the feeling.
But I can honestly say that we will never pass by another in need again. We’ll never let our insecurity or uncertainty stand in the way of helping another human being.
I’m so grateful to my son for standing by his convictions. I’m glad we went back.
She definitely changed our lives.