You may remember meeting Virginia in a recent blog post: “I Just Showed Up.” Virginia is a homeless woman, who wanders the streets near our home. I usually see her while at the soccer fields during the fall and spring.
Today I was driving home from my friend’s house and I saw Virginia walking along the sidewalk. I rolled down my window to say hello as I slowly drove by.
“Heeeey,” she shouted. “Stop. Stop. I need to talk to you.”
I knew a talk with Virginia meant one thing: money. She would need money for her baby’s formula or food or maybe bus fare. At least these are the reasons she has given me in the past. Today it was her medicine.
I pulled over in a nearby alley and got out of my car. Virginia approached me with her forlorn look. She speaks with a whiny, sing-songy sort of tone. Her front teeth are missing, and the others look as if they’re not far from falling out. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hi Virginia. I have doughnuts in my car again,” I tell her. She doesn’t seem interested in them at all.
“I need ten dollars for my medicine,” she says. “Give me ten dollars.”
“I don’t hand out money, Virginia.”
“But I have to get my medicine and it’s eight dollars and 43 cents,” she says, as if she may burst into tears at any moment.
“Where are you sleeping?” I ask her.
“Do you need a blanket?”
“I need ten dollars,” she persists.
I reach in my pocket and tell her I’ll give her a dollar today. I put it in her hand where I see she has collected another dollar from someone else.
She asks for more. I tell her no, but I wrap up the last two doughnuts I have in the car and hand them to her. I see she is no longer wearing her signature trench coat. She now dons a heavy blue and white fleece with a deer design all around it. Other than that, everything about her is the same.
She turns to walk away. No laughing at my freckles or “I love yous” and although I don’t pray aloud for her, I am praying for her in my mind. As I walk around my car to get inside, I turn to watch her walking down the sidewalk.
As I say goodbye, she throws the doughnuts into the street, like a todder knocking her sippy cup to the floor to show her anger. I’m a little shocked, but can’t say that I’m offended. After all, I didn’t fill her need.
And I never will. As I drive away, my heart feels heavy for Virginia. I wonder why I was so happy to see her again. Was it to play the hero? No, because as much as I love giving to her, I will never be able to provide what she really needs. Only God can do that for this destitute woman. Was it that I was grateful to see she was still alive? Maybe there was some satisfaction knowing she was still making it on the streets. Surviving the storms. Or was it because when I see Virginia, I am really seeing myself?
Bingo. Virginia is not much different than I am. Like the book titled, “Same Kind of Different as Me.” She is demanding. She is needy. She is lost. Just like me.
This is why I love living in the city… not to be a do-gooder. Nor is it to feel higher in social and economic status. It is because in the faces of people like Virginia, I am far more apt to see myself than I am on the streets of our old suburban neighborhood. I see myself at risk, vulnerable, and desperately in need of a God who will love me and save me no matter how ugly my life may get. So tonight, I am thankful for the glimpses of myself that Virginia provides and I pray that wherever she is tonight, she is warm and safe and that somehow, in some way, she will know that her God loves her – no matter what.