Last week my oldest daughter saw a homeless woman who sits at a busy corner near her house. The woman was there when she took Marley to school in an adjacent town. And she was still there when she came back.
And it was in the teens and very cold.
As the woman was walking through the Target parking lot my daughter pulled over and asked if she needed anything. She was only wearing tennis shoes and a jacket and pushing a cart.
My daughter went home and grabbed some insulated socks, hand warmers and a comforter and took them back to the homeless woman.
She said the woman wouldn’t look at her and was very nervous. Of course she was. Probably not accustomed to kindness.
My daughter asked again if she needed anything or would like to join her at the nearby Starbucks for a cup of coffee to warm up.
The homeless woman kept thanking her and telling her she didn’t have to do all that she was doing. But she didn’t seem to want to go along. I can hardly imagine that she would agree in her circumstances where survival is paramount.
Since my daughter could tell that she was making the woman nervous she asked her if she’d stay there and she would run into Target and get a wool hat and gloves and some cash to get coffee.
When my daughter came out of Target with her purchases a policeman passed by her walking in. She stopped him and told him about the homeless lady. She told him she didn’t feel comfortable offering her a ride to a shelter by herself.
But she asked him if he would take her to a shelter if the woman agreed to go.
He told her he couldn’t because of “liability.”
But my daughter said he had a gun and protection in his police vehicle that she simply did not have in hers. She didn’t think that was necessary, but one never knows.
The policeman chuckled and said: “They are everywhere and you can’t save them all.”
She was furious at his response. She went ahead and took the gloves and items she’d purchased to the homeless woman whose face was bright red from the cold wind, and gave them to her. She told her to stay warm and get some coffee with the money she gave her.
Of course by now my daughter was really upset and angry and began to cry in frustration. She said the woman acted like she didn’t deserve to be warm. And that just broke her heart.
She said she knows that people make their own individual choices and maybe the woman didn’t want to go to the shelter.
Maybe she didn’t feel safe there and had reasons why she would rather be sitting in freezing weather rather than be warm indoors.
Perhaps it is mental illness or shame or who knows what. But, my daughter kept saying: “She is a human being.”
The officer was right about one thing. You can’t help them all.
But on the other hand he could have shown a bit of compassion. Maybe he could have taken the time to attempt to help that one woman.