Early yesterday morning, I'd just piled two large boxes of groceries into the car trunk outside of the store, the dog was bouncing for snacks, and I was eager to get home to breakfast and my first cup of tea.

As I backed out of my parking spot and began to ease out of the lot, I noticed to my right an older woman sitting in a camp chair, a sign in her lap:

                                "I need help. I'm camping out.                                                                                                           Anything helps." 



There a lot of these signs around here, maybe around your town as well. Usually they are carried by men here, often seeming mentally ill, always depressing.

I drove on, feeling guilty that I had a twenty in my pocket...but I was hungry, everyone was waiting for the breakfast I was bringing, and it was my last twenty, enough for gas.

I drove on, but couldn't get the woman out of my mind. The mental conversation began.

"Remember your great sleeping bag idea? That didn't work out so well, this is just another one of those situations. You need that money for your family. There are so many scammers begging for money..."  

(When we'd first moved here, I started collecting sleeping bags for the many young homeless here. Months in, I discovered the young men I gave them to were selling them right away. One mentioned to me he'd rather be so drunk he didn't feel the cold than have to drag around bulky bedding sober.)


During this mental debate, my mind making justifications back and forth, my body had gone ahead independently and the car was now circling around the block back to the woman sitting in the camp chair. 

I pulled up behind her and got out of my car. I'll buy folks food when I can-- sandwiches in the store, a cup of coffee, a jug of water in the summer. A hello. Now and then an ear for them to tell their story if they want. Most don't but some do.

Never money.

One generous person here gave a lot of money years ago to one homeless young pregnant woman, only to eventually find out she was picked up at the end of the day in a mini-van, she and her husband were staying at a local hotel, and they'd been scamming all across the country, using their young child and a pregnant belly to often rake in hundreds a day. Not the most common story, but particularly galling.

Another time, a homeless fellow, a transient? local? was given cash by a well-meaning local, the fellow bought hard alcohol and possibly more numbing agents, passed out between two locked buildings that cold evening-- one of them a church-- and died of exposure in the early morning hours....

....about six hours before the first communion service.


This gets brighter. 

This lady and I began chatting. She had lovely blue-green eyes, clear skin, sunken lips, and a broad, close-lipped smile for me. She said she'd been a trucker for years, had gotten sick, lost her home eventually. She had signed up for all the appropriate services, and only had to survive on her own until January 27th, when the social services benefits would kick in.

Eleven and a half weeks....or eighty-two days.

She smiled.

"But I have blankets, stuff like that. I have some food stamps." 

She explained cash comes in handy so she can stay in campgrounds, usually $22. a night, 14 day maximum stay. It's safer there. I remembered, as I'd been homeless briefly in this area long ago with two small children. I'd worked though, had an emotionally supportive mother back east, was able to save money. This lady was on her own.

Her name was Pat. I smiled to myself when she said this as that's my mother's name-- I'd been missing her a lot lately. Then she mentioned her birthday was coming up, on November 26th. That's also the anniversary of my mother's death eight years ago. She went on to say she'd always gone by her middle name growing up, Anne-with-an-'e', but in 2002 she'd gone back to her first name, Pat.

I also grew up with the name Anne-with-an-'e', had also changed it eventually....and my mother died in 2002.

When I mentioned these...coincidences, we were silent, then we each laughed and mumbled "Meant to be"s. We got a little teary and hugged good-bye. She was off the to the coast for the winter, "They have a free medical clinic there..." I gave her my twenty. She thanked me and gave our dog a kiss.

As I drove away, we were both waving and smiling.

That was one really cool moment. 

RATE: 30

NOVEMBER 7, 2010 4:54PM

Join hands girl.. we are one and the same.
Good on you for doing that.
rated with hugs
You did a wonderful thing, may you be blessed yourself. I've done same too on occasions on gut instinct.
I'm glad you did this. I used to have one man I gave money to every time I saw hi,. He died in the woods, a heart attack I think, but was frozen anyway. Most times I will buy them a meal because some just head to the store for cheap wine and if I knew they wouldn't hurt themselves, that would be OK too. Money should have no strings and you did a great thing.
Thanks for this. Made my day.
you were intended to stop and minister to one another...angels crossing paths with messages for one another...and good will. Loved this exchange ! thank you !!! rated
It is really tough out there and if you can help someone, if you are in a position to do that, I think that is a good thing.
That was a well spent $20.00.
I am glad you did this. The scamming stories are exaggerated, trust me, on that. It is a way of denying that real trouble exists for so many. I am happy you gave this poor woman a little time, love and some cash. I know how life can be and it could be me with a couple of wicked turns here or there. People who beg are desperate in one way or another.
- bless you... may karma be kind.
Homelessness takes on a particular shade of nasty when the weather turns.
Glad you helped. One never knows if the help will be used in the spirit given, but we all have to believe.
How wonderful and gracious you are just to stop and talk to her. Probably made her day.
That is a wonderful story, a reminder we always get back at least as much as we give!
You told this so well. I knew you were going to part with that $20. I'm so glad you did. It is no small thing to give money away when we need it for our own families. I always remember~ they were someone's baby once too. ~r
It was actually a LARGE moment....
cool moment indeed beautiful r.
Wow - what a wonderful story. What goes around - comes around!
When I have money I give it. I don't have much these days and the winters in Helsinki can be merciless. I see people fishing in garbage cans for refundable beer bottles and cans. What money I have I spend on food for wild birds who suffer through the winter and I suppose people think I'm insane. Perhaps I am. How does one know?
hoping for a ripple effect for you....
Good for you. I'm sure there are scams, but we shouldn't use them to excuse turning a blind eye to the needy. I imagine you feel that your 20 was already paid back by that experience.
Lovely, that you circled back to help, and spent time talking together. Even if the giver is scammed, it is not a reflection on the giver.
I enjoyed this much. Good on you!
Got more than your monies worth!
So many moments you share in this one small moment. Lovely, lovely this.
We can never be sure in moments like these if we are making a bigger difference in someone's life or if they are making the bigger difference in our own.
Thank you so much for all of your comments, I had to post and run...
It's not easy to juggle helping out and taking care of one's own : )
Linda: I like to think we're similar : ) I'm honored you might agreeeeeeeeee
Fusun: Sometimes those gut instincts have something good to say, don't they?
scanner: I put boundaries on money because I couldn't bear to be the one who gave the means for an OD...even if one is on the horizon no matter what I do. Glad you came by...
Yu gotta follow your gut and your heart in these matters. You done good, just thinking ...
I'm so glad to make your day, Kim, it made mine too. 
Unfortunately for all, it doesn't always go that way at all when I meet someone who needs help, it too often depresses me for the day...
A Persistent Muse: I so appreciate your comment : )
kate: I'm worried about you, you're disappearing, almost invisible! It was a cool moment with a surprise sidebar... When my kids were smaller, I'm not sure I'd have either. We all have our moments somehow, I know you do as well : )
Sheila: It IS tough out there....sometimes I can help and do, sometimes I can help and don't-- lately I can't really help (hubby's work future is vague at the moment), but have been anyway...'there but for the grace of God go I' kind of thing??
Shiral: Yes, it was...may it help her.
Dr.Spudman: I realize there's more need than scam, and hope everyone does...but these scammers were real. The generous person was our former mayor...
Hi Bonnie, Catherine, Vanessa--glad you came by, and thanks for your supportive words : )
sweetfeet: hopefully she did have a good day--thanks for that : )
Antoinette: so true...
Joan: you made me laugh with the "I knew you were gonna'...."
mhold, Jon, trilogy: Thanks! 
Jan: Insane for me would be to not care if the birds had seed, but I love the wonder, "who would know?"...I'll bet Helsinki winters can be merciless, I hope you have a fireplace or kachelofen or something useful...
Thanks rita...
You're right LuminousMuse, we shouldn't turn away when we can help in small way...and yes, that lifted my day : )
sophie: that's a good point!
Much appreciated matt, tg within, annaliese! Thanks for coming by...
O'Really: that is so true...
cindy: Love the enthusiasm!!!! You're awfully kind...
Thank you so much, scarlett : )
A hand up is always a great thing. Good for you.
it would be easy to tell you that you are a good and kind soul. but it seems pat was too, and so now it comes to a quiet applause for two nice folks sharing a laugh and some kindness.
You're an angel dear... always follow your heart when it comes to helping people... making a difference in just one person's life like that.. makes it all worth it...
Yes, that was a cool moment by a cool woman. I enjoy your writing and the way you look at the world.
Amazing...simply amazing...there are still good people in this world. Gets me choked up as I listen to Christmas music Cheers to you on that. :)


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