What would you do if you answered a knock at your door and found a 46-year-old homeless woman standing in front of you with a small dog in tow? This is what happened to me this morning and before I could speak she asked me if I would please help her. Without hesitation, I allowed her and the dog in. Once inside, I said for her to sit down. She was trying to find a comfortable position when I asked, “Are you in pain?” She explained she had hurt her back after sleeping outdoors on the hard ground for the last two nights. Fortunately, I had some pain medication and gave her what remained with a glass of water. I asked her why she isn’t sleeping in a shelter? Her explanation was that she lost her ID and the shelter would not allow her entrance.
From a small backpack, she pulled out her cell phone and charger and asked If I could charge it for her. I took the device and plugged in the cord, I then asked her name, “Michelle,” she replied, “Do you have any coffee?” she asked, looking toward the kitchen. “Yes, I do Michelle, would you like some?” “Please, that would be so nice,” she said. Michelle wanted me to believe she was not really like this, as she tried to explain her predicament she would switch from one cause to another. Apparently, there was a multitude of causes that began a long time ago.
Michelle told me her dog had not eaten for a long time. As I filled a bowl with dog food, I suspected Michelle was hungry, too, so I fixed her a bowl of spaghetti. When she was finished eating, I offered her a chance to take a shower and wash her hair, she was overjoyed and thanked me profusely. While she was in the shower, I filled two large zip lock baggies, one with more spaghetti and the other with dog food. When Michelle finished showering, she returned to the living room. I did not recognize her as the woman that was at my front door. Michelle seemed embarrassed when she asked for a pair of socks; I gave her my warmest pair.
The moment I handed Michelle the two baggies of food, she started crying which made me emotional. Through her tears, she told me that she had knocked on three other doors before mine and was refused help. I never questioned whether I would help, I felt morally obligated to do what I could to help someone in desperate need. I noticed how she was smoking my cigarettes that I had rolled myself to save money. Afterward, I filled a smaller baggie with tobacco and added a pack of rolling papers. When I said wait, Michelle, one more thing and handed the baggie to her, I could tell she was overwhelmed by my generosity. That caused me to reflect on how close I had come to being Michelle.
From speaking with Michelle, I learned there were two differences between us. One was that as an accountant, I had earned more than she had over the years. Social Security Disability uses your total earnings to calculate your monthly benefit. Consequently, Michelle receives hundreds less than I receive. The second difference is Michelle has no family support, whereas, my brother offered to rent me one of the units in his duplex at a financial loss to himself.
As Michelle left my home voicing gratitude for my generosity, I felt my compassion was a blessing. Michelle did not realize that I saw myself in her position and questioned the number of doors I would have had to knock on before someone would have offered me help.