Many years ago, when my children were ages 10 and 6, I went through a very trying time. I had just left my husband of 7 years, to escape abuse. I managed to get a job with a nursing home as an aide for the elderly and moved in with a “friend” to share living expenses.
One afternoon, after work, I picked my girls up from the sitter, and we went to the fair for the afternoon. It was quite late, when we returned home, and the house was completely dark. I went to unlock the door, and discovered the my key wouldn’t go in the lock but halfway. I kept trying for a few minutes, while my oldest daughter went to get a flashlight from the car. When she returned with it, we found that somehow the lock had been “stuffed” with sunflower seed shells. So we went around to the front door and tried to open it, with the same results. Thinking that one of the neighborhood children had been up to no-good, I didn’t really give it much consideration.
I went around the house trying to find a window that might have been left open enough for me to boost my 10 year old through. No luck. All was locked up tight. So I returned to the back door, and broke out a pane of glass and reached in and unlocked the door. Not wanting the girls to pick up any of the glass in their shoes and track it into the house, I told them to sit on the porch for a minute while I swept up the glass. I grabbed the broom and dustpan from behind the door and started sweeping up the glass.
I heard a car pull into the driveway, and looked out to see two policemen walking up to the door. They inquired what I was doing, and why I had broken into the house. I explained the matter to them, and showed them the door locks. They then asked me for proof that I lived at that address, so I asked them to wait a minute, while I went to get my rent receipt and identification from inside the house. I then, for the first time, opened the door leading into the house itself.
Oh my, but I will never forget the shock of that moment. The house was empty! Other than a few things remaining on the back porch, everything was gone! I went through the house looking in each room in complete disbelief. In a daze, I went back outside where the officers were waiting and informed them that there was nothing left.
At this point, they were not buying any of my story. I could tell from their actions and tone of voice that they thought I was breaking into an empty house for some place to sleep.
I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the owner of the house, or her phone number. After several minutes, of sitting on the steps in shock, I remembered the neighbor across the street was a good friend of the owners, and told that to the police officers. I asked if I could go ask her for the number, and they informed me that the incident call had originated from that address. I walked over with one of the officers, while the other stayed with my girls.
The neighbor was able to provide the owner’s name and phone number, so the officers made the call. The owner was quite shocked to hear my story. As it turned out, my “friend” had been going through an eviction process through the courts when I moved in with her, and had lost the case. She had been ordered by the court to vacate the premises by 10 am on that date. The court order had been issued the same day I had paid her 1/2 of the rent and a deposit of $300.00.
The owner was very kind and understanding, but there was nothing she could do. The house had been rented already and the people were to move in the following weekend. She didn’t press charges against me for breaking and entering and told me not to worry about replacing the pane of glass I had broken, since she had some extra panes from a previous time.
The officers let me go, and I went to gather my girls into the car. They were both exhausted and cold. Also, very frightened, because they thought their mamma was going to go to jail. I put them in the car and laid them on the back seat, covering them with my coat. They fell asleep almost instantly.
I got into the car, and drove away. I didn’t go far though, before I had to pull over as the tears took control. I couldn’t believe it!! Everything we owned was gone. I had used up all our money moving in and paying my “friend” our share of costs. I had about $11.00 to my name. And pay day was three days away. I knew very few people in town, as we had just moved there recently.
I realized that I was exhausted myself and had to be to work at 6 am the next morning, so I drove to the city park and curled up in the front seat to sleep. Needless to say, I overslept, and called into work to apprise them of my situation. My supervisor was very understanding, but the best she could do was to see if payroll could issue my wages early. I went to sit back in the car with the girls until enough time had passed to call back. I was talking to the girls, explaining our situation to them, so that they wouldn’t be afraid.
During this time, there was a “street person” with a shopping cart, sort of lingering near by, looking in the garbage cans for aluminum cans, bottles, and any other item that might bring him some cash. I hadn’t paid much attention to him, as I was used to “seeing” these people without really seeing them. They were just part of the background.
After 45 minutes or so had passed, I tried calling my supervisor to find out what the verdict was, with no results. So, I decided to go get the girls something to eat for breakfast. We grabbed some bread, lunchmeat and chips, and returned to the park-for a “picnic.”
When we got there, and while I was again trying to call work, I noticed that the “hobo” wasn’t alone. He was with a small group of others “like” him, and they were passing a hat amongst themselves.
I, again, had no luck with my call, so the girls and I grabbed our bag of groceries and headed over to a picnic table. We set our things down on the table and Tami, (my 6 year old) told me she needed to use the bathroom. So we walked to the restrooms–just a few feet from where we were. We cleaned up a little bit and returned to the table. On the way back, I tried the phone again. This time, I had success. I reached my supervisor and was informed that I could pick up my check at 1 PM that afternoon. Such a relief!!!
We sat down at the table, and I was busy setting up out little “picnic,” when I heard a voice saying, “Ma’am, please excuse the intrusion, but…well…, I couldn’t help but overhear the situation you are in, and well….., me and the fella’s took up a collection for you and your little girls. It’s not very much, but maybe it’ll help a little.” I looked up at this man,– dirty, needing a shave, and smelling a bit “ripe”–and saw the face of an angel. I started crying. (Bawling…to be truthful)
The man tried to hand me something like $30.00, probably a small fortune to him and his friends. I folded his hand back over the money, and just hugged him as tight as I could. I told him, “Thank you very much for your more than generous offer, but we are going to be just fine.” He didn’t believe me at first, but I convinced him that it was okay.
Later, that afternoon, I picked up my pay check and rented a room for the week, to give me and my girls a little time to work our situation out. Then I went to the market and bought the makings for a barbecue, and off to that little park we went. It didn’t take us very long to find those gentlemen and invite them to join us for lunch, which they did. I had a wonderful afternoon that day, sitting there with those old “bums,” singing songs while they drummed on the aluminum park table, and just talking to them. They had some of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever listened to, and they shared the dreams they once had. They shared of themselves…from the heart.
As long as I live, I will never forget that day, when God showed me what true generosity and giving meant. When he showed me LOVE comes from the most unexpected places, in the most unlikely way. Those old men will live in my heart and memories forever, as the richest people I ever knew, because they had enough love to share with a mother and her two daughters who would have never given them the time of day.
That was the day, I saw the face of an angel, and forever changed the way I view others.