Let's take a walk through a brand new day.
My heart is hurting…
Today was a gut wrenching day due to a mere 5 minute heartbreaking encounter.
I started my day with a nice long visit and breakfast with a friend. After leaving the restaurant and realizing that my car was nearing empty, I pulled into the local QT to get gas and something to drink. As I headed to the fountain drink area, I noticed a tall woman with grey hair, sweat pants and a tattered T-shirt filling gallon bottles with water from the fountain area. With her was a young man who I assumed was her grandson. As she started filling the 2nd gallon plastic container, I engaged her in conversation saying,”Well, that’s a good idea. It’s so hot outside.” She nodded demurely and responded, “Yes, it is. For us it is a necessity. This is how we get our water right now because we’re sort of homeless.” I nodded and she turned away. Her grandson whispered that he needed to go to the restroom and she merely said, “Hurry, please.”
I put ice in my cup, filled it, and headed to the checkout counter. The comment about homelessness really bothered me because she seemed sincere and embarrassed. I paid for my drink and asked the clerk if they were truly homeless. He answered that he didn’t know. As I walked to my car, I just felt bad. My heart was actually aching thinking about this woman and her grandson. I put my drink in the cup holder of the car and realized that the only way to stop my aching heart was to help her. Even if she was NOT homeless, I would feel better if I offered to help her. I closed my car door, looked to my left, and saw the most heartbreaking sight. She was placing the 5 containers of water in the back floorboard of an old van that had plastic and duct tape where the window once was. As I walked toward her, I began to grasp the seriousness of her situation. The van was filled to the roof with belongings in cardboard boxes. The back of the van was smashed in. There was now no doubt in my mind that they were truly homeless. As I neared the car, I said, “Ma’am, could I buy you some food? Are you hungry?” She smiled so kindly and said, “No thank you. We are ok.” I then offered to put gas in her car and she again refused, saying, “We’ll be ok. Thank you.” She closed the passenger side car door after making sure her grandson was securely in the car and made her way to the driver’s side. I continued to look at them longing to help. I noticed that even though their clothes were old, they were clean. Their pride seemed in tact and appeared determined to make it together. There was an air of caring and kindness towards each other.
Even as I write this, my heart aches. Why? Because I realized after we had both left that I didn’t offer them the one thing that they might have accepted…sleeping inside on a nice soft bed. I have no excuse as to why I did not offer this except that my mind couldn’t grasp the plight fast enough to take proper action. It’s been over 10 hours since this encounter and I still can’t get it off my mind. I have so much. I have enough to share. But, in that moment, when I could have made a difference, I froze.
If anyone happens to see this family in a beat up van with Iowa license plates, I will gladly pay for a few nights on a soft bed for them. These were not beggars, not takers, but two people enduring hard times. Wherever they are in the universe, I wish them well and send positive thoughts and prayers for a home and better days ahead.