Monday, January 14, 2013


John and I were running errands ~
trying to get everything accomplished
to leave the country
the next day
for a much needed 
family vacation. 

As we pulled in to the local pharmacy,
I vaguely noticed a well dressed lady
stopped by an indistinguishable person
sitting on the curb.
They conferred briefly
before the woman
scurried to her car.

I barely had time to process what I had seen
as we darted into the store
to retrieve sunscreen and bug spray
for the caribbean ~
not to mention notebooks for the inevitable
return to school
after Christmas vacation.

Perusing notebooks and relentlessly calling my teenage son
to be sure I chose the correct one,
I was surprised when I heard a timid voice on my left say,
"I'm really embarrassed to ask you this,
but I need $8 to pick up my prescription."
I looked over and there was the person 
from the parking lot.
She was poorly dressed,
in her 50's,
and looked sick.
Very sick.
(and jaded)
I shot back,
"I don't have any cash."
She pleaded,
"Oh, no.  I don't need cash.
I just need my medicine."
Distracted and confused,  
I advised,
"Go find my husband.
He has on red pants.
He'll help you."

(If you know John,
you know my confidence was not misplaced.)

As she walked off I realized that she 
had not asked for cash.
She just needed help to pay for 
her medicine.
It was not a scam.
I quickly followed her.

We stood in line as John paid for her prescription
and I hesitantly asked,
"Do you need something to drink with that?
Do you need some food?"
The woman graciously accepted my offer for a drink
and explained to me that she wasn't hungry at all.
In fact,
she had just been released from three days in the hospital.
She had a severe case of the flu.
That's why she needed medicine.
She quietly explained
that she had no family.
She had been traveling with a friend,
a truck driver.
He dropped her off to make a delivery
and never returned.
She gestured to a small battered suitcase,
and proceeded to 
pull out a folded piece of paper from her pocket.
It was a list of two homeless shelters
the hospital had given her.

John attempted to call the shelters
to no avail.
Next, he called a taxi.
The lady and I stood in the cold December air
making small talk
while waiting for its arrival.
She thanked me profusely for all we had done
and I assured her that she was welcome.
 We paid the taxi fee in advance
to take her to the shelter
and gave her a little cash
so she would not be penniless.

Shortly after she departed,
John and I were disgruntled.

We wondered if we had done

John lamented that we should have 
gotten the lady a hotel room 
for a few days...
until she felt better.
We should have
given her our phone number
in case there were complications.
At the very least,
we could have
followed her to the shelter
to be sure she was accepted.

My regrets were of a less pragmatic nature.
I wondered if I was kind
Was I compassionate
Did I see her?
Did I truly see her?
Not as a problem to be solved.
Did I see her through God's eyes?

This lady
who found herself
sick, cold, alone, and homeless. 
Her misery palpable.
She must've been wondering 
how she arrived at that point 
in her life.

We had done the "right thing."
We could have felt self-righteous.

we were left with regrets.

So often our giving is prescriptive and sterile.
We give to 
 worthwhile organizations.
But on this day,
we were faced
with reality.
we wondered:

Did we do 


  1. I am sure you did more than 99% of people would have done! As to whether you did enough, as long as you are helping someone, that is enough!

  2. Summer is around the corner for Hampton story times! When will you be back?

    1. Thanks for the comment! It's been a long, boring winter, but I'm working on it! :-)