“The weather has really sucked these past couple of weeks. It’s either been so humid that I can’t go out for my regular walks or pouring buckets of rain. And I just joined the town pool! Really? So much for me to kvetch about. Pity party of one.
After dinner out with friends, my husband and I stopped to get gas on our way home. I decided we needed a quick nosh, so we stopped by the convenience store to pick up some ice cream. It was pouring rain, so we parked right beside the store’s covered awning and bolted into the store.
As we ran in, I noticed there was a young woman cuddled up under the awning at the side of the store with a large backpack and a cat. We got our ice cream then dashed back to our car trying to avoid getting soaking wet.
But something really bothered me. We have a few churches and a homeless shelter in our small town that give out hot meals to homeless people regularly, and I often see them in town before or after they have gone in to get their meal. I see them sitting on park benches or in front of one of the churches with their belongings, often comprising of simply one large backpack or bag.
When I’m walking in town with my dog, Thomas, who is a large, loveable Newfoundland, weighing in at 160 lbs. of love and drool, I always stop to say hi and ask them if they want to say hi to him and pet him. I always get a huge smile, and as they start to pet Thomas, they very often start to tell me about their own dogs they used to have.
Something about this young woman sitting crouched up against the pavement wall with her gaze turned downward, her backpack and cat made me think maybe she didn’t have a place to sleep this rainy night.
So, I went back outside, approached her, and asked if she would like an umbrella, as I had an extra in the car, or if she wanted the rain jacket I was wearing. She politely said, ‘No, thank you,’ and said she would be okay. I asked two or three more times, and she replied that it would just be extra things she would need to carry.
I asked her if she had a place to sleep that night, and she told me she was figuring it out. ‘Things have just been really tough lately,’ she said, looking down at her shoes. I asked her if we could give her a ride somewhere, but she said she didn’t want to impose on us, as she had her cat and didn’t want to get cat hair in our car. I told her it was no bother as we had a dog and the hair wasn’t a problem. Again, she said, ‘No, thank you.’
I then started to realize she didn’t yet know where she was going to sleep that night, but she also didn’t want to come with us.
I didn’t want to be too pushy—but I also just couldn’t get myself to leave her without doing something. I went back to our car and asked my husband to give me some cash. I hadn’t brought my own wallet with me that night. Without questioning me, my husband reached into his wallet and gave me money. He knew what it was for without us needing to exchange more words.
Back out I went. I approached the young woman once more, held out my hand, and put the money in her hand, to which she said, ‘It’s okay. No, thank you, I’ll figure it out.’ Her voice was quivering a little, and she looked so young and vulnerable to me. I told her it was my pleasure.
I was about to turn to go back to my car when I saw tears were streaming from her eyes. I reflexively hugged her and whispered in her ear I knew she would be okay. She wrapped her arms around me and whispered a thank you as I put the money in her pocket. I hadn’t even hugged friends in months and months given the social distancing, but something about this young woman made me instinctively hug her.
She then looked away again, and I realized that was all I could do. She didn’t want me to push her further.
It was hard for me to walk away. It hurt me inside seeing she was struggling, even though it was the first time I ever met her. But I needed to respect her wishes. Respect her. While also doing what little I could to help her. Some money, a smile, a hug.
Sometimes, when we are feeling like things aren’t going the way we planned, even if it’s just a bunch of crappy days of bad weather, if we open our eyes wide and look around us, we see opportunities of what we can do for others. All the time.
And yes, we can appreciate even more what we have, what our own children have.
And it feels damn good to help someone else’s child.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elisa Udaskin from Morristown, New Jersey, author of Be A Mensch: Unleash Your Power to Be Kind and Help Others. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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