I never got her name and I didn’t get her picture. But that doesn’t mean she’s any less important.
As I walked down the street in downtown Minneapolis, I noticed her coming towards me on the sidewalk. She wore a bright colored jersey coat with a number on the front. She carried nothing. And she was walking fairly fast, with somewhat of an urgency.
God prompted quickly – approach this woman.
The question of the month flashed through my mind.“If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?”
As quick as I recalled the question, I knew, without a doubt, that it wouldn’t be appropriate for this woman. So I’d decided I wasn’t going to stop her for an interview.
But there was good reason I’d been prompted to approach this woman.
Before I knew it, SHE was approaching ME.
She asked, with all sincerity and with all that was in her, “Ma’am, I’m really hungry and I’m really sick. I don’t have any money and I really need to get some food in me, now.”
Listen, people. I’m cautious. And I’m not ignorant of all the possible realities.
I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard the stories of fakes and fraudulents on the street begging for money when in reality they’re raking in thousands. I’ve heard about people who beg and then go spend the money on drugs and alcohol.
And I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen what wasted looks like. I’ve seen what high looks like. I’ve seen what overdose looks like. I’ve seen what the worst of mental illness looks like. I’ve seen. it all.
And let me just say? This woman was none of those things.
This woman was hungry.
This woman was weak.
And this woman was sick. Physically sick.
There was an urgency about her, a desperation that I couldn’t ignore.
The woman shared that she had diabetes and was out of insulin. So not only was she hungry, but she was feeling very ill, too.
I knew she was telling the truth. This wasn’t a lie. So I dug in my wallet, grabbed a $5 bill and gave it to her so she could get some food. She thanked me profusely, gave me a hug, said “God bless you,” and took a few steps in the other direction as if she was going on her way.
Just as she’d taken a few steps in the other direction. And just as I was verifying…
“Do you need any help? Are you going to be able to get some food nearby? Do you need help getting your medicine?”
She turned her back to me, bent her head down, and hung her head over a roped off area where we’d been standing. She was quite literally spitting up a little bit because she was so sick. And she appeared to be sweating. This was not a well woman.
“Are you okay? Is there anything else I can do to help?” I said, as I broke out another $3 from my wallet. Common sense told me this woman needed food NOW and $5 wasn’t going about to cut it in downtown Minneapolis.
I passed her the extra $3 in a hurry, feeling like these $8 dollars were the least of the help she needed in that moment, feeling like there was something else I should be doing for this woman. But she assured me she was on her way RIGHT NOW to get some insulin.
This was all so urgent, and all so surreal.
She hugged me again (this time even longer) and said “God bless you” again, as we parted ways.
So what can we learn from this woman?
Wow. Where to start.
Can I say that sometimes we just need to follow our gut instincts? I think God placed those instincts, those natural reactions, in us for a reason. And in this case, I needed to know whether I should protect myself from a potentially harmful situation, or whether I should help the woman in need.
My initial gut instinct was to approach the woman. My instinct told me that my question would be inappropriate for her. Right again. My instinct told me this woman was the real deal, that she was really hungry and really sick. And my instinct told me this woman was genuinely grateful for my help because of the way she hugged me not once, but twice, and the way she said “God bless you” not once, but twice. There was an urgency and a sincerity I sensed that couldn’t be contrived.
Some time later, after we’d parted ways, I started doubting my response. I wondered if I’d just been played. And I had to decide that I hadn’t been played. I had to decide this was real. This was reality. In my face. As in, respond to this need NOW or NEVER. So I responded.
This woman brought up vivid memories of my time in Haiti, particularly the whole day I spent with our two sponsored children. I remembered how I quickly learned that I had to get them food FIRST, before we could do anything else. Because when you’re really hungry, and in this woman’s case, when you’re really hungry AND sick, you can’t think of anything else except eating and getting well.
So what would this woman do if she didn’t have to worry about money? The question was completely irrelevant at that point. She just needed to get some food in her and get well. All dreaming was down the tubes. This was a matter of survival.
So I challenge you, is there someone in your life who’s in survival mode, someone who’s completely UNABLE to dream because they’re merely surviving this day? What are some ways you could send them a lifeline?
*This post is a part of a month-long 31 Days series titled Dreams from the Street. If you’d like to read more from my series, click here and you’ll be brought to the series landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked! You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days, and I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson! I’m so glad you stopped by. Make yourself comfortable and take a peek around the place. You’re welcome back anytime.