Last weekend, Hubby and I escaped on a quick get-away to Chicago. In Friday night, out Sunday morning, Hubby had a conference all day on Saturday, leaving me peace and quiet all afternoon.
My original plan was just to hang in the room - lounge in bed without anyone asking me for snacks and sippy cup refills, watch movies with out having to get up and wipe someone's bottom, and write in a space where I could only hear my own thoughts rather than the bickering of others.
But by noon, I was two movies in and the city was beckoning to me, so I strapped on my tennis shoes and decided to power walk to the nearest Garrett's to get Hubby a bag of the popcorn he loves so much.
I have never been afraid to wander around big cities by myself. In my twenties, my best friend lived in Washington D.C. and I went to visit her every spring break. While she was at work, I would see the sights, navigating subways and taxis by myself (after she showed me how, of course). When she moved to Boston, I relished the chance to see a new city.
When Hubby and I lived on Long Island, we looked forward to trips into the City (Shouldn't that be capitalized? New Yorkers think so). I loved when someone would visit us, and I knew my way to all the hot-spots like a pro.
We've been to Chicago numerous times, and I must say, it's probably one of my favorite big cities. It's clean and interesting, and the people have a Midwestern attitude and courtesy.
As I made my way to a different Garrett's than the one known to me, I passed several homeless people on the streets. Not a new sight, as it seems as if there is one camped out on almost every street corner. It breaks my heart to see people passing and not even acknowledging these people - the Invisibles. I've often thought I should carry a pocket full of ones and quarters to drop in every cup I pass.
But I don't, and I don't know why.
People say all the time, These people are drunks and drug addicts. They will spend the money on booze. Besides, they could get a job. They don't need to beg.
I almost admire people who beg. What a humble endevour. To admit and ask. It has to be hard.
But still, something stops me from keeping that wad of ones in my pocket, and I don't know why.
I passed a woman on my way to Garrett's. She was sitting outside the Chicago Theater with a sign that said, "Hi, my name is Keesha and I'm homeless. Any help you could give me would be appreciated."
I passed her by, but I couldn't stop thinking about her. What if she was a mom? What if she left her kids somewhere? What if she fled an abusive relationship and was trying to get away and was hoping for some break for a better life?
As I spent my thirty-five dollars on popcorn, I kept thinking of a post I read earlier that day. In it, the brilliant writer - one of my inspirational favorites - pointed out a difference between being "blessed" and being "grateful." I, too, have a problem with the phrase, "We're so blessed."
If we are blessed with things and people in our lives, why are some others . . .not? Why are some people living in wealth with more toys and electronics and jewelry and cars than they know what to do with and others are living in filth on the street with a backpack of "treasures" if they even have that?
We all know it has nothing to do with how some Almighty God has chosen to bless us or not. Many people would say it has everything to do with our own choices.
But you can't ever know a person's story without asking, can you?
I left Garrett's, clutching money in my hand. I had taken a round-about route to get there, and realized the direct route back to the hotel wouldn't take me past Keesha. I chose to go the round-about way, though. I don't know why, but I had to. As I approached her, she was looking the other direction, but her head turned toward me as she heard money drop in her cup. Her face lit up. Despite her crooked and dirty teeth, she had a beautiful smile and her eyes sparkled.
"Thank you so much. Bless you. Have a nice day," she said.
I put my hand on her shoulder and smiled. And then I walked away.
I don't know why I walked past all the homeless men and gave the woman money instead of them.
But for the grace of God, that could be me.
"Grace of God." No, I don't think so. Dumb luck, circumstance, time and place, maybe. I don't know why it isn't me instead.
I do know that in all of the complaining I do, all of the things I think I want and need, none of it matters if we don't have love and compassion. For everyone.
If we don't know someone's story or don't take the time to know it or to look in someone's eyes, what does everything else matter?
On our next trip, I think I'll load my pockets full of quarters. I should be doing it anyway. What's a quarter among compassionate humans?
People just don't see how easy it is.
And I don't know why.