Priceless Gifts from a Homeless Stranger

I almost didn’t notice her as I drove by on the way back from a last-minute shopping run for forgotten items for Christmas dinner with extended family.

She was all alone laying on a sidewalk on Christmas Day. The sight of the stranger broke my heart.

I was only a block or two from a small store that had been a dairy decades before, so I stopped there to find food to bring back to her.

The selection was poor. I ended up getting a banana, personal size carton of milk, and a pre-made meal for children’s school lunches that contained meat, cheese, crackers, juice, and a small candy bar.

It was a meager offering indeed.

I didn’t wish to disturb or frighten the woman, so I parked across the street holding the items so she could see I had food as I walked toward her, stopping about fifteen feet away.

I noticed that her head laid within a couple of feet of several chickens of various colors and breeds that were just on the other side of a metal mesh fence. I’d never noticed the beautiful hens before.

I said, “Excuse me.” She jerked up with arms defensively crossed in front of her face and chest.

I slowly walked toward her holding out the food. A smile lit her face as she eagerly accepted the humble items.

She thanked me, and unbidden, a rush of words came pouring out of her, as so often happens when lonely people are offered a friendly ear.

She said she was laying near the hens because she likes chickens and they made her feel safe. She told of her family having chickens when she was a young girl and sometimes they would peck her when she gathered eggs, but she understood that they were just trying to protect her babies.

She stated in a matter-of-fact way, “People like you are stronger than me, but I’m trying to get stronger”, adding she was on mental health medications and was addicted to crystal meth. She proudly added that she was trying to get off the drugs and hadn’t had any for two days.

I was speechless and didn’t know how to respond, so I nodded an acknowledgement to her successful two days. I believe she could tell by my look that I understood that it wasn’t an easy accomplishment.

I noticed she only had a light jacket, and was using it as a pillow. She had nothing else; no spare clothes, or other possessions that I could see. I said I had an extra jacket in the car and asked if she’d like to have it. She said she would and I got it for her. She immediately put it on.

She talked for awhile more, then we said goodbye. When I was about half-way to my car, I turned around, took some cash out of my wallet, rolled it up and handed it to her, saying, “You may need this.”

As she took it, she looked at me eye-to-eye and solemnly swore, “I won’t do anything bad with it.”

I know that if it is humanly within her power to do so she’ll keep her promise.

For just the price of a humble meal and a little time she gave so much more to me, and her gifts were priceless.

Trust. Gratitude. A solemn promise, beautiful smile, and glimpses of her struggle, story, and glorious spirit. A reminder as to the depth of joy that can come from giving, and the priceless gifts one can receive by doing so.

We wished each other a Merry Christmas. I got in my car and as I began to drive away, said, “Stay safe!”

If only one Christmas wish could come true for me this year, may it be that she does indeed stay safe, and rise above the terrible demons that have tried to keep her down.

With Love,

About russtowne

My wife and I have been married since 1979. We have 3 adult children and 4 young grandsons. I manage a wealth management firm I founded in 2003. My Beloved is a Special Education teacher for Kindergartners and First Graders. I'm a published author of 23 books in a variety of genres for grownups and children. In addition to my family, friends, investing, and writing, my passions include reading, watching classic movies, experiencing waves crashing on rocky shores, hiking in ancient redwood forests, and enjoying our small redwood grove and fern garden.
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49 Responses to Priceless Gifts from a Homeless Stranger

  1. William Early says:

    Beautiful story. Have you thought that she might have been an angel sent to you?

    Sent from my iPad

  2. billgncs says:

    merry Christmas Russ, maybe everyday should be treated like Christmas.

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for your kind comment and excellent suggestion, Bill! I focus on treating every day, and every moment, as the miracles and opportunities they are to experience joy, love, kindness, bliss, compassion, love, growth, connection, gratitude and so much more.

      Remarkably, despite that focus and those wonderful opportunities, I still too often waste time doing things that don’t lead to lasting joy, but as my time remaining in this physical body has diminished, I’ve gotten much better at investing the time I have left.


  3. Merry Christmas. And I hope your wish comes true.

  4. Mustang.Koji says:

    You have a warm soul, sir.

  5. I love this story Russ. I hope she makes it too.

  6. Russ, these souls are so often just walked ‘around’ and seem invisible to so many. If only more could really look at them as people …real honest to goodness people who have challenges such as we have never had….. Not that you’re looking for accolades because I know you by now… You relate stories as examples of how we can show kindnesses…. thank you for a good reminder we all need….. Diane

    • Mrs. P says:

      I really appreciated your comments about “invisible people”, thank you.

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you, Diane. You’re correct; in prior posts where I was the one being kind, I often preferred to tell the story and lessons I received without mentioning that fact, using phrases along the lines of, “a member of the group I was with gave the lady money for a taxi ride”.

      I wanted to share the message, feelings, gifts, and lessons, without putting the spotlight on myself. I didn’t want to diminish the power of the story. I was somewhat conflicted between that desire and the feeling that while the phrase “someone in the group” (when referring to my actions) may be technically accurate, it doesn’t feel completely honest to me. So, with this post, I chose to mention who it was that helped the woman.


  7. mimijk says:

    Merry Christmas Russ…you touch my heart.

  8. starrystez says:

    Wonderful inspiring.

  9. Merry Christmas, Russ. I’m sure that your kindness will not be forgotten…

  10. Ann Koplow says:

    Thank you for the priceless gifts of this story and of you, Russ.

  11. Such compassion is indeed a great blessing. Thak you for sharing this with us, Russ… Now we can add her in our prayers too.

  12. Mrs. P says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful thing to do. So many people are too scared to help. I am glad this was not true in your case.

    I know, from personal experience what your act of kindness did for this person. Though I was never a drug addict, I did experience homelessness once and stayed at a shelter for six months. There was one moment that really stood out during this time and I will forever have high regard for the city that pulled off this act of kindness. I wrote about it a year ago in a post called, Breaking Tradition. I think you will enjoy it.

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for sharing the link, Mrs. P. I enjoyed your post and am glad that so many good things happened to you after your unexpected homelessness. I appreciate your kind comments and that you shared these important parts of your life with us.


  13. kmabarrett says:

    “What you do for the least of my brothers (and sisters), that you do for me…” God Bless, Russ (and Merry Christmas).

  14. willowdot21 says:

    There but for the grace of God go you or I . God Bless you.xxxxxxxxx

  15. Professions for PEACE says:

    Such a beautiful sharing here Russ, filled with love – just like You. Thank you for brightening my day and filling my heart to overflowing. Warmest wishes for a bright New Year for you and yours.
    Your friend, Gina

  16. Kristi says:

    This really touched my heart. You’re a kind man. I hope she’ll make it.

  17. Russ,
    I’m glad we walk the same Christ ordained path to love others. Honored to call you, Brother.

  18. jolynproject says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Truly inspiring.

  19. What a beautiful story!

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