You know those perfect weekday mornings? Everyone woke up on time. Nobody forgot their lunch or their jacket. Everything is peaceful. Everyone makes it on time to school, you feel rested and relaxed...you even had time to grab a banana as you headed out the door...
Yeah. I didn't know those existed either. I am the mom who is corralling everyone out the door usually five minutes later than I planned, wearing my pajamas and no bra (praying that I don't get pulled over or into a car accident), running back in the house three times to grab things that the kids or I forgot...turning into the school parking lot on two wheels. We may or may not have eaten breakfast and there were probably already some tears. From the kids usually, but moms aren't exempt in our house. Mornings are hard.
But this morning was different. It was the perfect weekday morning, complete with my banana. I'm terrible about feeding myself, especially in the mornings when there is so much to do. But on this morning, I had gotten everybody ready and out the door and where they needed to be- on time. I was even fully dressed WITH a bra on! I even had time to grab everything I needed to take a swim class at the gym. I'd remembered that our Schnauzer Brinkley had a grooming appointment, and I'd even remembered to grab him. It was glorious. And rare. Like observing a lioness give birth in the African savanna. The fact that I had a) joined a gym in the first place b) planned to go c) made the dog an appointment and d) remembered was all momentous. This will be a day to go down in history.
As I drove to the groomers, I was marveling in this morning. What had happened? It was like the Heavens had opened and a hand had been shoving me around all morning GETTING STUFF DONE. I felt like a beast. I also felt a little lost. I had an hour until my class started and I wasn't about to haul myself home because I knew I would never make it to the gym if I got laundry rotated and then settled in with a cup of coffee and last night's Tonight Show. What was I going to do with this time? Free time? What is that?
There's a Mexican mall that I pass on the way to the groomer. I don't know if it's okay to call it that. I'm sure non-Mexican people can go there, but it is painted with the Mexican flag and all the stuff is in Spanish and it never looked open. This time there was a large FOR SALE banner across the front. As I saw that, I noticed a bunch of bundles under the overhang of the mall. I couldn't make out any people specifically, but I could see the shimmer of sleeping bags and I was pretty confident that this was a gathering of homeless people.
I live in Texas. The weather is always unpredictable but it's usually a toss up between hot and hot/windy. But it has been FREEZING here. Like, I nearly cried it was so cold this morning in the car and my daughter said "You're whining like _____ in my class, Mama." She was not impressed. So of course, seeing this new congregation of homeless people in my neighborhood was shocking and instantly hit me in the feeler. It is way too cold to be sleeping outside.
Suddenly I knew what I was going to do with my extra time. I called John because I was alone and the mall is set back really far away from the road and is totally deserted. He didn't answer and I took that as an opportunity to DO WHAT I WANT. Don't get me wrong. He isn't some lord and master over me. This is 2014. I am a grown woman. I do what I want. I recognize though that I am really naive and I really trust his judgment and so there are a lot of things I like to run by him.
I pulled up and I was right- there were people under those mounds of bedding. One woman was too cold to come out from under her blanket. I can't imagine being so torn between cold for the moment to have food or slightly warmer for a moment and hungry. But that's what she was having to decide. Thankfully a man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth was willing to speak for everyone. I asked if they needed anything or would like some food or coffee. They'd already eaten that morning but coffee sounded great, he said. I got a head count and headed for the nearest gas station.
Now, I am not a regular visitor of gas stations. I like the discount I get at the Walmart station for using my card and they don't have an indoor store. Plus, I hate pumping gas. So I wandered in feeling determined but a little unsure. As I looked at the prices of everything, I was a little taken aback. Yeesh. The image of the cigarette hanging out of his mouth came to me as I shopped. A little voice inside my head said "If Philip or Gracie were homeless, would you want that to keep someone from helping them as much as they could? They are someone's kids. They're people." So I grabbed a basket and hunted for high protein, filling stuff. I grabbed some cough drops. They only had little pocket tissues which was frustrating. I don't know how YOUR nose runs, but mine is legendary. That pocket pack would do nothing. Did you know that gas stations have great deals on coffee? It almost makes it worth it to go in there. They had these ginormous insulated cups- you pay once for the cup and fill it up for free, and it comes with a bunch of coupons for more free fill ups. I got a bunch of those and I asked the manager if I could load up on free creamers, etc. 'since I wasn't sure what my friends like in their coffee' and he said yes. NO SHAME. They're 'free'. That's why a pocket pack of tissues costs as much as my mortgage payment, people. (This is a lesson I learned from John. It goes back to the whole naive thing where I really think free means free. Thanks, John. Consider me jaded/informed!)
I drove back up and delivered the goodies. We exchanged names. This is a big one that I learned from my Uncle Brian. He taught me that even if you don't have anything to give, introduce yourself and talk if you have time. So many homeless are treated like they aren't even human. My new friend Joe noticed the Mary Kay stickers on my car. He asked me why my car wasn't pink. "You have to actually sell something to get a pink car!" I said, and we laughed.
For once I was glad that I hadn't taken that extra five minutes of sleep. I was glad that I was running early and had the spare time. My day was set on a great course after that. It was the 'perfect morning', if such a thing exists.
I have always had a yearning to help homeless people. There are ways I have gotten involved, but never in the way or to the degree that I wanted. Especially considering where I live. It's been a sore spot with me for a long time. I have dreams of opening a shelter or something like it some day.
The other evening, I joined my friends for a night out at a comedy club, and afterward we went to Starbucks. Believe it or not, for a chubby girl, I have really weird and strict rules about eating. Since I had just put minty gum in my mouth, I didn't want a coffee drink. And water would be too cold with the minty flavor. So I didn't get anything. My friend saw a homeless woman in the Starbucks that she somehow knows, and she introduced us. The woman was opening a can of soup and had a worn but clean bowl with her. She noticed that I hadn't ordered anything, and asked me if I wanted to share her soup. It was humbling and touching and just one of those moments you never forget. It's been on my mind pretty regularly since.
I have a tendency to be an all or nothing person. Part of me is so angry with myself that I haven't helped more people or couldn't help these particular people more. But I learned a really valuable lesson from my friend at Starbucks that I try to keep in mind. Perspective is important. She didn't have much, but what she did have she was willing to share. I can't beat myself up for the things that I haven't done or can't do. I can only take the opportunities as they come and do what I can. I won't reach the world. But I can reach MY world. And if we all do that, then the world will change.