Thursday, February 9, 2012


I was stopped at a traffic signal the other day, and in fact had to sit through two cycles waiting for my turn, as often happens in the big city. So I had a lot of time to ponder the situation. There was a young woman holding a sign stating, among other things, that she was hungry. Now,. this is not an unusual situation. Street people can be found anywhere in a warm city. What made the difference was the prompting I felt.

Since I still had a moment before the signal would hail me on, I rolled down my window and said, "I'm on my way to the burger joint across the street. Meet me there and I'll buy you lunch." Her answer surprised me. She look like she wished, with everything she had, that she could join me. But she told me that she had to stop meeting people like that because the last time she did, she ended up in the trunk of a car.

I went on my way, saddened that she had been treated badly, so sad that she was not seen as a human being, someone's friend, daughter, mother, wife. I did not want to go back and just hand her money, because I believed she needed more.

I bought her a take-out bag and took it to her. I let her know that if she could not accept food from strangers either, I understood, but she was grateful. And hungry. Then I stayed awhile. We stood on that median strand together, talking, sharing stories. She told me how she came to be there, what she would like to be different, what is important to her.

What she needed was respect, and she got it that day. I hope she gets respect today, too, but it seems to be in short supply.

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