our little Bible study group from today*.
She is someone whom I am tempted to pass quickly by. Sometimes raw human need is still hard to see and smell.
She pushed a cart, full of plastic bags and cloth bags, filled each of them with her belongings.
Even though sometimes I want to move on, my experience with Allen taught me not to. It's better to stay there in the moment with the person in front of me than it is to move on to something that feels more comfortable to me.
She started talking, "I have been waiting around here all day for a shower. They keep telling me to come back and come back, and then they never let me in to shower."
My heart sank. Again, here I am proven completely wrong from my initial judgment, assuming this beautiful lady did not want to be clean or she would be. And then my heart broke. She is hurting because she needs something so basic, to be clean, and I cannot offer this to her.
More than that, she is opening up to us in a very personal way. I'm sure it's incredibly hard to acknowledge to people that you know you really need a shower. How humbling to express something so basic -- and taken for granted by us -- to people who are strangers.
The need must be desperate.
I told her about Our Calling, an organization working with the homeless in Dallas, who also provides free showers.
She handed me her pen and her sheet of paper, and I wrote the name and address down.
"May I pray for you?" I asked.
"No," she looked up at me, gently. "I mean, you can when you leave," she said earnestly.
"I will do that," I replied.
I'm glad she told me no. When I ask someone if I can pray for them, it feels vulnerable, because they can say "no." And that can feel like rejection, or perhaps that I misread the situation. But honestly, asking someone if I can pray for them isn't about their response but about my stepping out in faith, to try to care for the person in front of me the best way I can at the time.
As I walked away from her, I thought of her journey over to Our Calling. She would walk to the bus stop, hoping they could direct her in the right place. She doesn't have a phone with GPS to guide her there. It's less than a mile from where we were at the time, but she cannot walk all that way. Who knows how long it will take her or if she will arrive? Will their showers be open? Where will she sleep tonight? There is a good chance I will never see her again. She seemed a passer-through.
But again from her I learned to listen and love the one person in front of me, and to trust that those moments, whatever they bring, are the most important.
*written June 26, 2014