I don't often go to Panera bread, because it's out of my way. I like it, but I'm usually too lazy or too much in a hurry to make time for it. Recently a client sent me a gift card, and this morning I headed down there to pick up breakfast. I have a soft spot for their soufflés. Yummie!
On the way in, I held the door for a woman with her arm in a sling. She also had a backpack and a plastic cup, and balancing all this while holding the door didn't look like fun. She tossed something in the trash and went back outside, and I stood in line to order.
When I came back out she sat on one of the chairs outside and we talked for a bit. I'm bad like that - I talk to strangers, lol!
She had a broken bone in her arm near the elbow, which would be an ordeal for anyone. Turned out she was also homeless and had spent the night on the side of the road outside the mall, because the Salvation Army's shelter required a photo ID and wanted $10 for her to stay there. Her ID was expired, and she didn't have $10, so she had to sleep outside.
I assumed shelters were free, but I guess not. Some friendly police officers had checked in on her during the night to make sure she was still alive and okay, but besides that they couldn't do much to help.
The ironic thing is, if she'd had children they would have let her stay and given her a room of her own. She said that when things started to go south she made sure her children were cared for, so they wouldn't be on the street with her.
This was a really nice lady and she didn't ask me for anything. She just wanted to talk. I rarely have cash, but I gave her the $4 I found in my wallet. To many people that's almost nothing, but she lit up and said, "I'll go inside and get something to eat."
I said, "Wait, if you're hungry I can help you" and gave her the gift card, telling her there was $14 left on it. To me, fourteen dollars is a few cups of coffee and pastries I don't really need. I have a home with a perfectly fine coffee maker and I'm chubby without eating any more pastries. I had gotten my coffee and my soufflé. She looked like I bought her a piece of heaven.
The funny thing is, on the way there I was grumbling to myself in the car, because things haven't gone my way the past couple of weeks. Nothing major, just annoying little things. Meeting her reminded me that I am fortunate. I have more stuff than any one person would reasonably need to survive. I have a bed, clothes, food, a car, and I've never had to sleep outdoors by the side of the road. I think life sometimes brings us the people we need to meet in unexpected ways. I hope I made her day better. She certainly made my day better.