Soul Doubt: Extending a Hand to Who I Used to Be

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Extending a Hand to Who I Used to Be

There was a trailer court down the hill from my grandparents' house that I remember frolicking around at twenty years ago or so, when I wore my hair in pigtails and had scabs on my knees more often than not. It was owned by a couple who were elderly even back then, so it was no surprise when I heard a few years back that they had quietly passed away, as old folks so often do, within several months of each other.
What has been a shame was the rapid disintegration of the already shabby little neighborhood after they died, and the only bright spot of the whole mess was that they weren't around to see it. The place began to teem with meth cooks and junker cars, the ruts in the unpaved roads overflowing with garbage as the children who played in them seemed to get even dirtier and more skinny. It was no wonder that whoever owned the site finally decided to wash their hands with it, and one by one the trailers began to disappear, the somewhat intact ones transported elsewhere, the more decrepit of them just demolished.
A few residents refused to go. I remember reading an article or two about it, and idly speculating about the cause- too doped up and couldn't afford it? or truly deprived of their right to due process and making a stand? Whichever it was, they brought the whole 'Operation: TrailerSweep' to a standstill, and the last I heard, had no running water or electricity but were still holding out, even though police had been brought into the mix and it was a just a matter of time before the whole thing came to a close.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. A lady from my church called, asking if I had a few moments to listen to a unique situation she needed some assistance with. I said of course, and she began to explain how a young lady and child had been standing on the side of the road, covered in soot, as another member of our church was driving by, and she felt compelled to stop. Upon turning into (guess where?) the trailer park- or what was left of it- she had realized one of the structures on the lot (one of the last remaining) was engulfed in flames, and the woman and child had obviously just fled from it. After calling 911, she pleaded with the woman, who was apparently in shock, to take her phone number and call her if she needed anything at all, please.
Now, I'm not sure how much time had elapsed, but I suppose the woman realized a few days lodging in a motel courtesy of the Red Cross was not going to get her and her daughter very far, found my church friend's number in her pocket and gave it a shot. They met up, talked, and my church friend left the woman's hotel shaken by her story and quite afraid for her and the child.
I guess this woman had led a hard life for someone still quite young. Walking a road awash with tough men drinking in rough bars, black eyes and a bleak outlook, she turned to drugs and disreputable digs like her last stop. Now, after losing everything, she felt like giving up- after all, how was she going to be able to pick up the pieces when they had no pieces left?
Hearing this story, I felt my throat tighten in empathy. I too had felt that low, and recalled the stinging pang of having nothing but the clothes on my back, though it had been quite awhile ago. Didn't ease the ache, nor the rush of shame which accompanied it. How ironic that I had been chosen to possibly assist with what could have been me; in another time, in another town.
Upon hanging up, I attacked my closet with a vengeance. By another stroke of fate, the newly homeless woman and I were apparently the same size, and no sooner were the words out of my friend's mouth informing me of this, I was eagerly volunteering to donate clothes, as well as anything else I could think of as being helpful to someone with absolutely nothing. This lady had nothing. The only baggage she had was not the kind one could unpack and pick an outfit from, if you know what I mean. And with a kid, to boot.
So, a half hour later, I had assembled a mishmash of shirts, skirts, jeans and jackets. Socks, bras, and baby blankets. A huge teddy sat atop a bag of makeup and assorted toiletries, and a few of my purses and backpacks were finally going to stop cluttering up my poor closet. I enlisted my husband's help, and between the two of us we threw in a few more odds and ends- some toys, books and bubble bath for the little one- and got it all loaded up.
On the drive over to the woman's house who was organizing this, I realized something. I felt GREAT!!! This was better than Christmas, better than birthdays. This was giving to someone who not only was a complete stranger but was truly in need, and to know that I could help was the best I'd felt in a long time. Yeah, the lady was a wreck, and who knew if she was going to even appreciate all the help. Maybe she'd just trade it all to the dopeman for another fix. But that wasn't the point.
Giving for the sake of giving was a brand-new experience for me, one that I was savoring for all it was worth. I had a sponsor one time who told me that we hit our bottoms when we finally stop digging. And cynic though I am, I still am holding out hope that this young woman will put down her shovel and reach up and out with that newly freed hand; that I, or someone else with no other motivation than which to help, will extend the hand of human kindness to her and she will begin the long yet wonderful journey up and out of that hell on earth we addicts inevitably reach before our deaths or recoveries.

3 comments:

  1. Kendra, Wonderful story. I'm glad you've decided to document this part of your life. I'm enjoying your journey.
    One Day At A Time,

    Thom

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  2. What a beautiful post! Reading your blog, I am struck by your compassion, tenacity, and open-heartedness. Truly the fruit of the Spirit has taken root in your life!

    Thanks for sharing your stories. :)

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Thanks for taking the time to read what I ramble about- I consider it an honor to get feedback from you guys, so please tell me what you think, feel, if you have a similar story... whatever you'd like! Thanks again and God bless.