Monday was a fairly normal day for me. Came home from a relaxing few days away with David. Got my paycheck, went to the bank and went to work. My client (a new young lady) was AWOL (can’t give details) so I went shopping for dinner. When I arrived at Walmart, I noticed a smallish figure sitting on the sidewalk against the building. The person (I was unaware of gender at the time) was sitting, hugging their knees to them and their face was almost hidden with the hood of their hoodie up.
An hour later, the same smallish figure was in the same spot as they were when I arrived. After loading my parcels into the car (including milk, meat and frozen foods) I drove around so that I could pull up to talk to the hooded figure.
I rolled down my window and asked if they needed help. I offered to get a few items to provide nourishment. This person asked if I would be willing to purchase a new pair of sweat pants. “I need something clean to wear*.
I said I’ll park the car and would go shopping. To my surprise, this small figure was a woman. At first glance, I thought it was a man because there was an excess amount of facial hair that made one think so. Tracy is 42 and has been on the street for several years. Throughout our time together it never crossed my mind that I had perishable items in the trunk of my car or that David had no clue what I was doing.
Tracy had a friend with her named Carl. He, unlike Tracy, was quiet. As we went about the store, I realized that Tracy had some problems. I don’t know if it was nervous energy or if she had some sort of mental disorder. Whatever it was, she definitely had something going on. Tracy was dirty. Very dirty. And she didn’t exactly smell too good. The smell that came from her was nothing short of sour. At times the smell would waft from her like a heavy vapor. I wished I could bring her home with me and let her take a long shower. Then she could smell good, even for a few days. I resolved that I wouldn’t let her poor hygiene keep me from being a good testimony and I continued to exhibit patience and kindness.
One thing I felt was God appearing through her was her desire to want to do something for me despite her having nothing. She thanked me many times, adding “God bless you” all the time. My reply was always to let her know that my meeting her was my blessing. I also told her in reply to wanting to do something…. “when you get on your feet, show someone else some kindness”.
First order of things…..get some food. In a gesture that surprised me, Tracy was concerned about getting the least expensive items. She wasn’t concerned about having deli roast beef or pricey cheeses. She was happy with bologna with some cheap mayonnaise, a small loaf of bread from the bakery and a couple bottles of water. I told her to grab a candy bar and when she spotted some little prepackaged cakes, I told her to get one of those too.
The process of finding the sweat pants wasn’t nearly as easy. She wanted the ones that were about $7.00 but we couldn’t find the right size for her. I convinced her to check in the women’s section (she wanted the men’s pants). Every pair I held up for her wasn’t right. Mostly the concern was that the material was too thin. Tracy finally said she would get a pair of the men’s pants in a larger size and she would pull the drawstring tightly. After we found a pair that would be suitable, we made our way to the registers to pay for our purchases.
Purchases completed, Tracy asked if I could get something for Carl. He tried to decline this idea but I insisted on getting something for him from McDonald’s. No matter what I said, he would only ask for some french fries and a milk. I got them for Carl and after asking if Tracy what she wanted, got her something too. While waiting for the order, Carl actually spoke to me. He asked some basic questions about me. The two questions most important…. “Are you a Christian?” I replied I became a follower of Christ in 1988. Then quietly he queried “do you help a lot of homeless people?” I wished I could tell him I helped everyone I came across that was in need. I didn’t lie. I told Carl I helped whenever I could.
When the food was ready, I helped Tracy and Carl to a table. Despite how badly Tracy smelled, I reached out to her and gave her a big hug. I held on tightly for a long time, assuring her I wouldn’t forget her. I gave Carl an equally big hug, asking him to take care of Tracy. I left them and as soon as I got into my car, I cried. They were tears for a woman who I wanted to save but didn’t have the means to do so. I cried because I wished I could have done so much more than I did. I cried to God…. I asked for His protection over Carl and Tracy. I went home and as I shed more tears, I told David about these two special friends.
I’d be lying if the smell from Tracy didn’t linger in my head for a bit. But, I knew that in God’s presence, she would smell as sweet as the most precious rose.