An encounter this week that really got to me

Last night my voice coach encouraged me to write a post that is in tune with myself. Something longer than the ones she noticed had been quickly done. (And may I say that was very observant of her. I thought no one would notice) So here goes…

This week I came into contact with an old neighbor. We lived in a terrible, horrible, motel where everyone was on some substance and over doing it, whether legal or not.

I’m going to call her Mary* but the truth is I don’t remember her name, although I can tell you which room was hers. The one at the end of the walkway, across from the office. She lived in that one room with one bed along with her 5 children (one an infant) and her man of 17 years. That is a lot of people in one room.

Every one of us had reasons for being there. It could be because of addiction, a felony, evictions, or being new to town and not knowing where to find adorable rent – which was my reason for ending up there- the week I moved to town.

Once at the Hines motel, it was hard to get out.

It was like a vacuum that kept you stuck and impoverished in filth and negativity. I was prey to this trap as I was newly in relapse and without a job.

I wish I could give you a clear picture. There were probably 22  units. A few on a second floor in a small section of the U shaped building. There were fights, gossip, and the police came several times a month.

Like I said I was in active addiction to alcohol. My standard outfit was 3/4 length sweats and either a tee shirt or a tank top. I weighed 287 lbs. My life was going nowhere but down the drain quickly.

Fast forward to this week.

As a sober employee and volunteer at my church, one of the things I do is sit and have coffee each week with some of the regular community members that come early before dinner on Wednesday nights.

A neighbor of mine walked in with a new person. This new person stood at the end of the table where we were all seated. She said she didn’t drink coffee but she did go ahead and grab some ice tea. Once a chair opened up I invited her to come sit by me. That is when she told me she recognized me.

I told her she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t place where I had seen her. Then she nailed it: the Hines. (which had since been torn down and prayed over the land by local pastors, because such horrendous activity had occurred there that they wanted the new use to have a fresh start). Anyway…

I instantly was taken back to that 6 months of my life that felt like years living through it. 

And now it seems like a different lifetime ago as my life has been completely transformed through returning to Christ.

Over the evening, in a brief 2 hours, Mary caught me up on the highlights of her life. She had lost her kids by choosing to keep her pets (I’m not sure what that meant but my heart hurt for that choice).

She was newly clean off meth for the last 6 days which is a good start especially when she is homeless but could have shelter right now if she lived with the man who kept her high. It’s a huge sacrifice to be homeless for any reason but I’m super proud of her.

She hasn’t seen her children since July (7 months ago) although she had completed the classes necessary to have visitation.She cried as she pondered whether that infant from years ago would grow up with any memories of her and their life together at such young years.

Mary is pro-fighting. She gets into them with family and strangers. She is not phased by jail except that there is no toilet in the holding cell (our jail is meant for 120 people but is holding over 400). She is immune to the state mental hospital. She could care a less if she got locked up.

Her life has been hard for her entire 33 years on earth.

The story of her beginnings in a violent home, with other family and men beating her, and with tales I won’t mention here…she shared a lot in an hour once dinner was served.

I have no idea what Mary thought of our encounter when she left. She was grateful for the food and said she would be back next week. She had a sweat shirt jacket to stay warm in the cold. I offered for her to come see me in the office Thursday so I could try to find her something warm. Although she knew about Room in the Inn ( a program where each church takes one night a week and houses up to 12 homeless people for the night giving them 3 meals, a bed, and showers) she did not show up for it.

In the 2 hour encounter she never mentioned how much I had changed. But on the outside alone it would be a shock to see me. What I hope she noticed was the internal change. Staying out of the bait to gossip. Listening with true interest and caring about her welfare– rather than just passing time until my next drink.

I am not Jesus I have a long way to go to even look like I follow his word consistently; but He sure did turn my life around.

Romans 8:28 tells us that God can use everything to work for the good.

Almost daily at work I get a chance to help someone who has a yucky past or present …and relate to them from my own experience.

I pray that seeing and knowing me as a drunk, who didn’t take care of myself, then seeing me so much better now…I pray that God uses it for the good of Mary. I pray that it sparks in her the idea that if it happened to me, Kate, it can happen for her. And I pray that she will one day be curious how it can happen for her.

But mostly I want to pray:

Lord be with Mary* wherever she is. Keep her safe while she is on the streets. Help her be inspired to seek shelter in the few safe places available to her. Grant her grace and mercy. Draw her close to you and begin to heal her pain and her life. Lord chase her down and don’t ever give up on her, the way you never gave up on me.

In your Son’s Holy name. Amen.

Until Next Time~ 

Blessings, Kate