I’m feeling blue and rather courageous about sharing this act of kindness. It’s not your typical feel good story about choosing to do something kind for someone, but I’ll tell you anyway, in honor of the fact that sometimes it hurts deeply to open our hearts and extend kindness with the intention of alleviating another person’s suffering.
This past weekend I was in grocery store when a woman asked me for 50 cents towards buying some chicken . She said she was hungry. I didn’t have any cash but I offered to buy her chicken if she didn’t mind sticking around with me until I finished shopping. She didn’t say anything but started walking beside with me.
She had a very sad demeanor and I noticed she had a black eye. She shuffled her feet as she walked. She slurred her speech.
(I noticed many judgments rise up within me.)
I kept shopping and began talking to her, asking her if she was ok, as I noticed her eye.
She said she’d had a seizure and hit her head, but that her temporary roommate didn’t call 911 because she woke up. She didn’t know what caused the seizure.
(I noticed my internal reasoning and retelling of her story.)
She watched me place more items in my basket.
(I became aware of where my purse was.)
I asked her if she’d like to get more groceries to go with her chicken. I said I’d buy up to $10 of groceries for her. She just stared–vacantly, walked off, coming back with an armful of raw chicken.
She stood there, holding the chicken, looking at me.
I told her I was happy to help her and to put the chicken in my basket.
I picked up some yogurt drinks for my three children.
(I felt aware and almost uneasy about being able to buy the groceries I needed for my own family. I noticed my internal story.)
I asked her if she had children.
Three girls, she said, children that had been taken from her because her mother called Child Protective Services.
(I noticed other shoppers giving her edgy/distrusting looks.)
She asked me if I could imagine my own mother having my children taken away from me, and then asked me why would her mother have done that?
I told her I couldn’t imagine that. I told her that perhaps her mother was worried about her kids’ safety. I asked her if her children were safe with her… She shrugged and shifted her eyes down.
(Again–inside my head–I heard my own version of her story.)
Her speech slurred. She seemed in a slow-motion haze.
We finally got to the checkout. I asked her what needed to change for her situation to improve? She said getting her own place would be good. I told her I hoped it worked out for her.
I paid for her chicken and all of my other groceries.
She didn’t say anything as I handed it to her.
(I found myself waiting for her to thank me, but then redirected my thoughts to the reason I was doing this in the first place… it certainly was NOT to be thanked, but to show compassion and to do what I could in this moment, to help her.)
I wished her well and left the shop with my grocery cart full, as she used her cell phone to call a friend, perhaps to get a ride.
I got to my car and felt terribly uneasy–quite dreadful–about the whole experience. Deep down I knew the best–and perhaps the only–thing I could have done right now, was to buy her food.
I said a prayer for her and her daughters.
I cried. It didn’t feel good to do this for her, but it truly feels like the only thing I could have done.
It’s interesting to me to consider my inner dialog and judgments, and my hesitancy to share this story with you, dear reader. I didn’t let my negative and judgmental inner thoughts change anything except to find a way to more deeply open to her, be a witness to her, to hear her, be beside her when so many others in the store seemed to run from her, and to give her what she said she needed in the moment.
What more could I have done? I wonder.
I wish I could have done more… I wish … I wish …. many blessings for her life.