It was late summer and the Baltimore sun burned down on the city threatening death to those who were not wise enough to stay hydrated and seek air conditioned buildings. My family is notorious for being the last to leave after Mass. Mom has to talk to everyone and everyone has to talk to Mom; and of course in the meantime some of the other family member become engaged in their own conversations. This Sunday was no exception.
We were finally ready to leave when a tall, well-built African-American woman came through the doors searching for a friendly face to help her. Of course, the church is located in the inner city, in what has slowly become a better neighborhood over the years as large Catholic families began invading it every Sunday ten years prior. So we were accustomed to riffraff floating in and out and rather sketchy people petitioning for money (always money, never food). But there was something different about this woman. #1 I'd never seen her before, #2 she looked like she was going to pass out from heat exhaustion.
She approached Elise and I and began her story...
She was fleeing an abusive husband/boyfriend. She had a baby girl who was at the woman's shelter a few blocks away, but she couldn't stay there because it was already full. She was told there were other shelters, but she didn't know where. She was out of money and everything else. She was at a total loss.
Well, the first thing she needed was water. I'm no doctor, but I do know some things. We took her into the office, sat her down and got some water for her. We helped her locate the other shelters and brief directions to them. I found some food for her and Elise gave her some money. Then my parents called us to hurry up and get in the car. We wished her well and told her she'd be in our prayers.
Today was a rather warm Sunday for a Maryland winter, another heat wave of sorts. I drove to Mass separately because I had errands afterwards. I was running slightly late. I parked the car and started hurrying up the block. I looked up before I reached the corner to see who I'd have to pass at the bus stop there - and I couldn't believe it.
"Hey! Do you remember me!?"
"Of course! From the summer! Wow! You're looking good!"
"Yeah! I found a woman's place in Reisterstown and the YWCA is really helping me get back on my feet."
She was so happy - more than happy. She told me how she found help and now she's planning on starting school in fall. She was just downtown and thought she'd walk by the church since that was the first place she really received any help. She asked how I was doing, and the rest of the family. She was so happy and thanked me for everything. She gave me the biggest hug in the world. I told her I was so happy for her and I'd continue to keep her in my prayers and she was always welcome at St. Alphonsus. She said that was the best thing - she now wore a crucifix around her neck. She didn't ask for anything else, though I wish I would have thought to give something to her.
Such a change from the exhausted, desperate woman I met months ago!
Fun how stuff like that all works out.
Keep her in your prayers too.