It’s hard to believe we were in sunny Mexico just 48 hours ago. I offer just this one photo as proof (to myself, as well as others).
I was freezing at work this morning and thought it was just me until I noticed my co-workers still wearing their coats and hats at 9:30.
“Is it cold in here?” I asked. “Yeah, they couldn’t get the boiler going,” one of my officemates explained. The building is home to thousands of employees, and this sounded pretty serious. I was almost glad I had a lunchtime meeting downtown, although the weather outside was nasty.
Sometime before lunch the heat did kick in, and people started peeling off their layers. By the time I left for my meeting it was getting nice and cozy inside. Walking the couple of blocks to the MAX station I again marveled at how people can survive, homeless, living outside. I would be a crumpled mass of despair within an hour. I shiver just thinking about it, partly because the idea makes me feel cold and partly because I hate glimpsing what I perceive as a weakness in myself.
In any case, I did survive the five minute wait for the train. After my meeting I headed back to the station. It was drizzling pretty hard. A young woman was waiting in a doorway and she caught my eye: she was beautiful and smartly dressed in jeans and a stylish black jacket. She was looking at something on her phone.
I’ve been carrying around a hundred since before our trip and it occurred to me to give it to this young woman. We made some small talk, then I walked up and down the platform for a few minutes. Yes, I decided. She was the one.
She was still looking at her phone, and was smiling now. I went up to her and said, “I wonder if you can help me out with something.” She looked at me and hesitated for a second before saying “Okay.” Then she brightened and said, “Sure, I’ll do what I can.”
I told her about my mom and that I had a gift to pass along. I handed her the hundred.
The woman’s hand flew up to her face and she started to cry. “Is this for real?” she asked. Then: “Can I give you a hug?” She reached out with her thin arms and gave me a long hug.
Her name was Chelsea. Luckily I had a couple of tissues, because the tears were flowing. “Who does that?” she asked. “No one just does that!” I was watching for the train, hoping it wouldn’t come for a few minutes.
While we waited Chelsea told me a little bit about herself. For the past year, she’s been living in a Motel 6 with her disabled mother. She’s got a job at the motel but was out looking for something better, in a better location. “It’s really hard to save enough to get out of there,” she explained. “We need to get out of there but it’s really hard.”
The train came and we climbed on together, still talking. I wanted Chelsea to know that there are people like me in the world who care about what she’s going through even though we’ve never met. She thanked me and told me I was awesome. Then she said,”I know we’re all in this together, right? Otherwise what’s the point?” She said that sometimes families come to the motel and they can’t afford their room.
“I’ll pay for them, you know? Because otherwise it’ll just weigh on me. Not everyone, only if they touch my heart. I can’t help it.”
Her generosity made my own seem piffling; I remember feeling this way with John James, who was off to buy lunch for the Street Roots vendor with the money I’d given him.
Things will get better for Chelsea and her mom; I just know it. I got another hug as I got off the train.
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