Before the ring she had always been a predator in my eyes.
She is there every day, all day, at the same corner. Her cargo pants are black, having long ago become saturated filth. Mats of long brown hair ooze from under her black stocking cap. She appears to wear at least two heavy shirts on: a black hoodie and a button up which was once plaid. Over these she sports a thick thrift store army jacket. On her back is a pack stuffed to the brim. As I’ve sat in my car waiting for the light to change I’ve seen her take from the pack bottles of water or an occasional energy bar. And there is always the sign. “HOMELESS. HUNGRY. NEEDS HELP.” She holds it out for all to see as she walks up and down the grass medium. She is young. In her twenties. Thin. If she were to clean up she might even be pretty.
This corner is not the only place I see her. I also see her occasionally at the bus stop by the dealers, strung out in some strange pose – as if she was going to sit down but then was frozen in time. It is as if when the drugs hit her system her body told her to lay down, to get off her feet, to find somewhere, anywhere to be but standing here. Yet as her body screamed danger her mind turned off. Her synapses stopped firing and she became an uncomfortable statue. In a half-sit/half-stand she holds. Muscles crying in agony but mind deaf in darkness.
It is her daily persistence at the corner combined with her routine visits to the bus stop that keeps me from rolling down my window and offering her help. What she hungers for I am not willing to satisfy.
But today something was different.
Today there was a fist shaped ring around her eye.
It was purple, yellow, and black. It looked painful and made me want to change my pattern of ignore and deny. Suddenly I longed to put her in my car. To take her three blocks to my house. To let her take a shower. To wash her clothes. To give her a warm place to sleep and a real meal. To maybe help her find work. To give her a chance in life. To show here something besides the corner and the bus stop.
The ring changed everything.
The ring moved her from predator to prey, from aggressor to victim.
But my kids were with me.
And I know how firm the grip of heroin is, how small the chances are.
And I’m unsure if she would even come.
And it is my home.
Then the light changed.
And I drove on.
The Bishop of CTB