I stared blankly at the digital parking meter wondering if I in fact had to pay on a Saturday. It had been a chaotic morning getting my three young girls to my mom’s so I could “sneak” away to do some work at a local coffee shop.
And now, after two solid hours of mommy multitasking, I was seemingly STUMPED by this money hungry complicated monster of a machine.
My hands cold from the brisk temperature I fumbled my VISA into the card slot waiting for digital instructions. I was agitated.
“Do you have any spare change?” a soft voice asked me.
I quickly shoved my VISA into my wallet, closed it, while answering, “No. I don’t.”
“Okay. Thanks anyway.” the woman politely answered. She was in her mid 40’s dressed in blue jeans, an 80’s style pink sweater and a dirty light denim jean jacket.
I DID have change. My heart sagged with guilt. Frustration. Compassion.
“I can buy you a coffee.”
The woman, now already half a block away turned around. Acknowledging my comment she began walking back towards me.
“What’s your name?” I asked
“I really appreciate this. I was up all night sick.” Pamela explained.
“Well then a hot tea or coffee should make you feel a little better.”
I wanted her to feel like I was treating her with respect and not as a pity opportunity.
In the short ten minutes we chatted I learned that Pamela has struggled with mental illness for 30 years. Her sister and mother recently died from cancer.
She was taken from her parents at age 13 and reunited with them ten years ago.
“Do you know how AMAZING it was to be with them again after 30 years?” she asked me.
She has never been married. Has no children. At a young age she was introduced to the streets via a relationship with a man who she later found out was a heroin addict.
She once painted five pictures. Gave all five away to friends.
“It was sad to see them go”. Pamela said with a tinge of regret in her eyes.
I imagined Pamela as a small child. An innocent little person as precious and beautiful as my three girls. My heart ached with all that she must have been through in her life.
Was her childhood a happy one? Was she loved?
As she talked a running dialogue played in my mind…
It must be hard to have to ask people for money all the time. She must be cold. I wonder how much of what she says is true.
Doesn’t matter anyway– I’m here for my daily $5 latte and she is asking strangers for money in the street. What kind of mental illness does she have? What does she do all day?
Internally, I struggled on how to show genuine compassion with out sounding like I was feeling sorry for her. I mean, if I was homeless I wouldn’t want people to feel sorry for me…right?
Ugh. I just really wanted the experience to be supportive and caring.
Gratitude for Purpose
While I was busy trying to make the moment the “best” it could my internal chitter chatter came to a grinding HALT when Pamela stated,
“I don’t know what God’s plan is for me yet.”
Her words were dense with emotion. They were absolutely genuine. Raw and real.
Yet. Yet. She used the word YET! There was HOPE in her statement. Not just in the word but in the WAY she said it.
“Your art is part of God’s plan Pamela.” she returned my statement with a smile.
All day I have felt the need to write this story down. To SHARE with others how Pamela made me intensely AWARE of some of life’s GREATEST GIFTS.
FEEL like I am part of a greater plan. BELIEVE that I have purpose.
I strive to raise my girls to feel that they capable of creating a fulfilling life journey. We hope they experience, on those rare and crazy magical days, that the UNIVERSE is aligning just right, at that very moment, JUST FOR THEM.
So, I hope that Pamela feels that way one day too.
Taking a sip of her latte, enjoying the sweet whipping cream on top, Pamela said, “Thanks again Trisha.” Holding the warm breakfast sandwich in one hand she softly waved good bye with the other.
I wanted to buy Pamela coffee to help her out. To feel good about myself.
In fact, this experience was more than a moment of generosity. It was an experience of transformation…for yours truly.
GRATITUDE for PURPOSE.
Thank you Pamela.