There is often no greater honor in life as being a life preserver for those who are drowning. And this last week, I met a young girl five stories under the Chicago Loop who seemed close to never taking another breath. This girl, 21, has cerebral palsy, has been homeless for two years and just received an additional diagnosis of hepatitis weeks before. As she approached a long line of others waiting for relief in the form of food, hygiene items, clothes, blankets and other items, she looked as though she would collapse. I took a moment to grab a stool and asked if she’d to have a seat until I could get to her. Her answer was indistinguishable, but she did sit down.
Over the next twenty minutes, a larger crowd gathered and as with a mass of need, some pushed and shoved; this frail girl was knocked to the cement repeatedly and at two points lay on the ground crying. After the second time, I walked through the several dozen homeless assembled and with the help of two others, picked her up off the ground and sat her within the door of the bus. An hour went by and she eventually fell asleep cuddled in a donated blanket from one of our hometown friends. Around 1am, the mass had mostly dispersed, by my count we’d seen about 125 people that evening; and to my surprise that included 27 haircuts and beard trimmings.
As I woke her up, she seemed for a brief moment unburden by life. She was warm, safe and someone was there to help. She wanted a new bag; and I had a large, blue backpack. She needed food; and I had sandwiches, pop tarts and granola bars. She needed feminine hygiene; and I had those along with undergarments, socks and shoes her size. She needed her hair un-knotted as it hadn’t been washed or combed in months; and I had combs, trimmers, shampoo and conditioner. In a continued example of Grace, everything that she asked for was available for her as the donations were various and plentiful.
As I helped her make a new bed roll with fresh blankets, in fresh clothes, with fresh everything, she quietly asked me what today was. I relayed that it was Wednesday, the 10th; and this coming Sunday was Mother’s Day. I asked if she knew of anyone to call, and she said her sister might take her call; but it had been over a year since that talked. They had both left home at young ages as their home was unsafe. She called her sister, she answered and after about twenty minutes she handed me back the phone. With tear filled eyes, said that her sister was on her way from Gary to pick her up.
An hour later I watched a minivan pull up to the bus and what looked like her identical twin only a few years older, ran up to me and asked if I knew her sister. At that moment, they saw each other and were instantly looked in an unbreakable embrace of sisters.
At three that morning, after many hugs and tears, they drove away from the hell of Lower Wacker Drive en route to the next chapter in their lives. And even though they may be awaken with many nightmares to come, they’ll have each other to heal in whatever ways are possible. The sisters last words to me were that they prayed every night to be reunited; and they knew that in God’s name all is possible.
God bless all who have donated to “The Incremental Road to Grace”; and all that have kept those in need in their prayers.