21 Aug 2014
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Where's A Homeless Person When You Need One?

My own personal lesson in giving.

Where's A Homeless Person When You Need One?

Okay, so I'm a mom, right?

Always looking for an opportunity to enrich my daughter's life. To expand her knowledge. To enlighten her in the ways of the world. To teach her whatever I can.

It was 4th of July weekend and we had just had a serious barbeque. I mean, we had two grills going (okay, one was a mini cooker and the other was a George Foreman burner -- but they were rocking it!).

We had condiments at every turn, patty's, buns, sodas, wine, corn, chicken, cakes... and the food kept rolling in. With every new guest there came new deliveries.  My fault because I made it a potluck event for fear I might not have enough to go around. As it would turn out, I had too much.

When the party ended, and the last guest left I looked at the aftermath of the food hurricane and wondered what was a single mom—with little girl who, between the two of them, barely finished a complete meal—going to do with all this food?! 

So, I had a brilliant thought. I will use this disgusting display of glutony as an opportunity to teach Hannah how to give to those in need.

"Honey, we're going to pack up this food and deliver it to a homeless person,"  I boldly announced.

I marched off to the kitchen all full of my thoughtful self and began wrapping, and packing and carving, and piling, and by the end of it I was like Santa Claus with a sack of food and wine that would surely be a Christmas feast for one lucky homeless person on this hot 4th of July weekend. We loaded up the car and off we went.

Now, in Studio City there are certain spots that you can always depend on there being a homeless person. There's the 101 off-ramp at Laurel Canyon, the bus stop near Coldwater, pretty much anywhere on Ventura between Whitsett and Tujunga, and Moorpark Park near the swings. 

So,  I knew this would be a quick delivery.

Mission: find our person, give them the feast, wish them a happy holiday and show my girl a little something about generousity and compassion.  Ah, yes, Susan was feeling the sprirt.

"Hannah, there are people not as fortunate as us and what we're doing is a really good thing."

I headed for the 101 off ramp first because I liked the guy that always stood there holding the sign. But, as we reached our destination much to my surprise... he wasn't there. Bummer. Hmm... where could he be? 

Hannah said, "maybe he found a home, mommy."  Maybe... no worries, off to the next spot.

But, again, no homeless person. Where was she? The one who we never could tell if she was a she or he but we always gave a few bucks to whenever we saw her/him. 

Onward we went... and went, and went. For the next hour-and-a-half, as my car was now stinking of greesy burgers and Hannah was starting to fall asleep, I drove and drove, depserate to find a homeless person.

Dammit, I had a delivery to make and a beautiful lesson to teach, now where the hell is a homeless person when you need one!?

Hannah thought maybe they all found homes and now she was ready to go home too.

"Mommy, I'm tired, please let's go home."  Now I was irritable and impatient.

"No! We have a home, but someone SOMEONE out here doesn't! Now, we are going to do a good deed! We're not quitting until we drop this food off  to someone less fortunate! Now, stay awake, have some corn on the cob, grab a soda, baby! Mommy's no quitter!"

Driving, driving... and, honestly, I was now forgetting the spirit completely and just sort've pissed off that it wasn't going how I pictured.  And then... I found her.

There she was. Our girl. Our special homeless woman who was about to be in for a wonderful surprise. She was a little old woman, white crazy hair, a hand-knitted cap and a row of filled shopping carts chained together next to her... and she was alseep. I mean, it was perfect.

"Oh, baby, look at her. So sweet. Wasn't it worth all the driving to find her?  I won't wake her. I will simply place our amazing picnic basket of food and wine next to her and when she wakes up it truly will be like Christmas morning for her." 

Hannah beamed. I beamed. It was beaming time. I pulled over, put on my hazzards, told Hannah to stay in the car as I tiptoed to our lucky lady, carrying the bag and gently placing it next to her purple, swollen ankles.

I looked at Hannah who, from the backseat, I could see through the window giving me the biggest smile ever.  I gave her the thumbs up. We did it... we did it!  And as I began to walk proudly toward the car, finally ready to go home, tuck my girl into bed and talk about this day I...


I turned in terror. That baritone scream couldn't possibly be coming from... oh, but it was. Running toward me with my just-delivered groceries was little old lady with fire in her eyes.


And now I was running from her, running from my food, running  into my car and as I fumbled with the keys, trying to start the car up, telling Hannah to lock the doors suddenly a rainfall of burgers and corn and cake and wine and chicken and macaroni came pouring down on my car. Showering my car. Every single item I had taken the time to cook, pack, wrap and deliver she dumped all over my car and was now dripping off the windows.

And the old woman was screaming at me to go, GO GO GO! Go I did.  

I pulled away as fast as I could as little knitted cap woman was still waving her arms at me screaming.

Silence. The only sound was the windshield wipers trying to wash the Jello mold off my windshield, but was really only spreading and smearing it around.

From the back seat my daughter finally spoke, "Mommy... was it supposed to happen like that?" 

I took a long breath,  "No, honey. Not like that."

And as I later drove us through the car wash, now Hannah fast asleep in the back seat, I wondered... what was supposed to happen? Did I think I could just orchestrate a lesson and have it play out like some Hallmark commercial? Where had my humility gone? In my desire to give to the needy... it became all about my needs.

It's funny being a mom. So often when I think I'm teaching the lesson... the lesson is taught to me.

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