Last Thursday I was in downtown Des Moines waiting at the "transit mall" where all the city buses come. I had been there quite a while, waiting for a bus that would take me to a job fair at a local grocery store. I've been unemployed for a LONG TIME and things have been very difficult for me monetarily.
So I was sitting on a bench and across the street I could see this young woman in her 20s. She looked kind of dirty, like she could use a bath, and she was carrying a very large knapsack (looked like all her belongings were in it) and walking with a Labrador dog on a leash. She stopped to talk to one of the people (Operation Downtown) who clean the streets and give directions downtown, and then she walked away from me.
I was curious about her, and when the Operation Downtown man came closer to me I asked whether she was homeless. He said yes, and that she had needed directions to get to some place where she could get some food for herself and the dog. He had told her where she might get some help.
I sat and thought about it a bit longer, and all of a sudden I knew I had to give her some of the little money I had. So even though I had high heels on, I raced down the street in the direction she had gone. But I couldn't see her. I thought I knew where she might have gone so I turned that way, and there she was coming out of a doorway with her dog!
I only had $7 on me, but I thought I could spare $5. I gave her the money, and she was very surprised (since she hadn't even talked to me) and said "thank you". She said she was trying to get to Chicago. I told her I wasn't sure if she could get a bus to Chicago with the dog, but she said he was an assistance animal (I'm not sure what disability she had).
I was thinking that if she could get some other people to give her a little money she might be able to ride the Megabus to Chicago (they have some really cheap fares), but at least she'd have a little something for herself or the dog if she couldn't manage that.
I don't usually give money to people since I'm so strapped myself, and often homeless people spend it on drugs or alcohol. But I just felt something when I saw her and knew I had to give her some of my money.
I am still worried about that girl because it's rough on the streets, even in Des Moines, but I'm hoping she makes it to Chicago.
When I looked at her, I started to think about the story of Abraham in the Bible, where the two strangers come to his tent and Abraham believes they are messengers from God.
I'd like to think that maybe she was an angel too, giving me a chance to share with someone in need. (And please don't tell me I was a sucker!)
I just wanted to share this experience, I told a few people at church about it but I don't want to post it on Facebook.