Priceless Gifts from a Homeless Stranger

I often drive by the place where the story below occurred and think about the young woman in the story. Another story by a friend reminded me of this incident and I thought I’d share it with newer readers to this site.

(I wrote this paragraph in a reply below but wanted more readers to see it so added it to the post itself: When I think of the young woman in the story I sometimes think of a young bird with a broken wing. I also often think of what more I might have done for her. I could have offered to take her to a shelter (if she knew where one was because I don’t), a bus terminal (and given fare to her for a trip home wherever that may have been, or into my home, etc. So much I could have done and didn’t. If we’re truly here to help walk each other home, as I believe, I failed her and myself by not doing more.)

With Love,

Russ

 

Priceless Gifts from a Homeless Stranger

By Russ Towne

I almost didn’t notice her as I drove past on the way back from a last-minute shopping run for forgotten items for Christmas dinner with extended family. She was all alone lying on a sidewalk on Christmas Day. The sight broke my heart.

I was only a block or two from a small neighborhood store so I drove there to find food for 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 and held the items so she could see I had food as I walked toward her, stopping about fifteen feet away. I noticed that her head lay within a few feet of several chickens of various colors and breeds 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 and thanked me. Unbidden, a rush of words poured forth as often happens when lonely people are offered a friendly ear. She said she was lying 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. She understood they were just trying to protect their 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. I nodded in acknowledgement to her successful two days. I believe she could tell by my look that I understood it wasn’t an easy accomplishment. She had only 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 a while more, then we said goodbye. When I was about halfway 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 little more than 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 of 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 rises above the terrible demons that have tried to keep her down.

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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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30 Responses to Priceless Gifts from a Homeless Stranger

  1. It is so touching.. I have a heart for the homeless and know that they all have stories for why they are without a place to lay their head… Diane

  2. quiall says:

    That was beautiful.

  3. billgncs says:

    God has blessed you with a kind heart

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you, Bill. I wish that was always true. Too often petty thoughts have drowned out the whispers of my heart. Thankfully, in quieter moments, I hear what is always there. That is one of the many reasons I love quiet times, solitude, and nature.

  4. Thank you for reminding me of this beautiful story Russ. You’re a good man. ❤
    Diana xo

  5. Joan says:

    Lovely, thanks for sharing

  6. It is heartwarming to hear people still have hearts of gold and stop to help the less fortunate. You are a hero, Russ.

  7. I wonder how often she thinks of you. And smiles. 🙂

  8. ksbeth says:

    this is extremely compassionate and beautiful, russ. i’m sure she thinks of you too.

    • russtowne says:

      I do hope she remembers that a fellow human being knew she was worthy of kindness, and that the memory, and many more like them, help her through her dark and cold times.

  9. schorian says:

    Russ, that was a touching story. I have been homeless myself, when I was just young and wandery, and I have met these people from within the lives they lead. It is a hard place to be, a humbling place to be. It is great that you stopped to help her, it will likely be a stone on her road to recovery. Something I will never forget is that no one person is greater than another because of the circumstances of their lives. We all need to hold onto that and help when we can. Thank you for reaching out.

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for your kind comment an for sharing a pice of your story and outlook on life. One of my favorite quotes goes something along the lines of “We’re all here to help walk each other home.” I often use it as an affirmation as to the way I want to live.

  10. varsh says:

    Its amazing how people react to small gestures of kindness and love. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  11. russtowne says:

    Reblogged this on A Grateful Man and commented:

    I planned on re-blogging this closer to Christmas but family will begin arriving for an rely Christmas celebration and family reunion on Friday for ten days so I decided I’d better send it now.

    With Love,

    Russ

  12. misifusa says:

    I have tears in my eyes Russ. Beautiful. So grateful you shared. ♥

    • russtowne says:

      Thank you for your kind comment, Misifusa. (I know your name but I don’t know whether you prefer I use it or Misifusa here so for now I’m going with the latter.) When I think of the young woman in the story I sometimes think of a young bird with a broken wing. I also often think of what more I might have done for her. I could have offered to take her to a shelter (if she knew where one was because I don’t), a bus terminal (and given fare to her for a trip home wherever that may have been, or into my home, etc. So much I could have done and didn’t. If we’re truly here to help walk each other home, as I believe, I failed her and myself by not doing more.

      Russ

      • misifusa says:

        One of my favs is Ram Dass, we are just walking eachother home…love that you mentioned that phrase. Russ, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change…(Wayne Dyer)…so look as if you helped her and not failed her nor yourself. You stopped, you helped. Do not hold yourself with blame but in knowing that the lesson is that if you should come across another human to help, you may do more if you can. That’s all. Be peaceful dear friend. xo

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