Last night I took my mother to a Mexican restaurant half way between her apartment and mine. I was starving and knew I’d better eat before I went grocery shopping and spent all my money on junk. As we walked to the door to go inside, there was an older lady sitting on the bench. She had dark skin, dark eyes, and gray hair that was a stringy mess. She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and those shoes you wear in lakes and oceans. She appeared to have no teeth, either. She smiled and said hello. I smiled and said hello back.
I wasn’t sure what her deal was–if she was just poor or homeless or what. There was another woman sitting on the bench with her but they didn’t appear to be together. That woman was put together better, cleaner, and appeared to be waiting for someone. She was sitting on the opposite end with her right leg crossed over her left, facing to the left, as if she was trying to avoid eye contact or even so much as look in the other woman’s direction.
Mother and I went inside, ordered, and ate, all the while looking for and hoping that the lady on the bench was just waiting outside for someone she was meeting for dinner. She never came in, but the other woman did. I asked mom if I should buy the lady some food and get it to go and give it to her when I left. She wasn’t sure what to do. I also wasn’t sure if she’d eat it, what she’d like, or if she’d still be out there when we finished. I resolved to speak to her upon leaving and ask her if she would like something from Dairy Queen next door–if she was still sitting there. I felt bad for the woman and wanted to do something though I didn’t know her circumstances, but didn’t have any cash. I figured this way I could ask her if she’s hungry and what she’d like from Dairy Queen.
When mother and I left, the woman was still sitting there, smoking a cigarette she must’ve bummed from someone on his or her way inside the restaurant. I looked at her and she said “You have very pretty hair. You’re pretty. I bet you have a boyfriend, don’t you?”
Lady: You don’t date?
Lady: You just haven’t met the right one yet.
Me: I’m really not into that.
She looks to mom. “You’re pretty, too. Are you two sisters?”
Me: She’s my mom.
She lady was overcome with a look of shock. “Mother? You don’t look old enough to be her mother. How old are you, sweetheart?”
Lady: Well you don’t look old enough to have a daughter that’s 37.
Mom: Thank you.
The lady went on to ask mom if she had any more children. She then told us she has two sons, the youngest being 40. I couldn’t help but wonder where they lived, if they have any type of relationship with her, and why she was seemingly alone or homeless though she has family.
Mom and I walked to the car, and I still didn’t know what to do. I drove over to the woman and asked her if she was ok. Before I could ask her if she’d like some food, mom asked her if she had somewhere to go. She claimed she was good and was just sitting there waiting on her family to get there. She told us to have a good night and insisted we leave her. Although I did not want to, I obliged. From the looks of things, she was used to people leaving her. My heart sank into my gut as I slowly drove away, looking behind me to see if someone came.
I can’t stop thinking about that woman. Is she poor? Homeless? Was she really waiting on someone? Does she see or talk to her sons? Why was she on that bench? Where had she been before? Where was she really going? And why was she so nice, friendly, and complimentary with everyone that passed? I hope she is ok. I hope she has eaten and has a safe place to lie down at night.
I don’t know her situation or circumstances, but past experiences and observations have shown me that people are not what they seem. Those who constantly try to build others up are broken inside. And those who say they are ok and don’t want anything are actually not ok and need something. I wish I had known what to do. The lady told us to leave, so I felt the respectful thing was to grant her wishes. She may not have wanted anything but she can’t stop me from praying. If you could, say a prayer for her, too, and the many others who wear shoes like hers.
I hope I see her again–only with people who care about her. If I see her and she’s alone, I hope I can do something for her. I hope she’s more receptive to it–even if it’s just a cheeseburger and a milkshake.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
May God put angels in our paths and give us eyes to see them, hearts to love them, and clear directions on how to help them.