Yesterday I wrote of encountering an old woman taking a shower fully clothed next to the Boardwalk. At the end of the piece I mentioned wanting to be able to meet her, and perhaps talk with her. I was frustrated I didn't turn around and do so when we had the chance.
Well, early this morning she was again taking a shower fully clothed in the place where we first saw her. And again too, I didn't want to embarrass her by interrupting such a personal act as bathing -- even though she had to do it publicly with her back to the Boardwalk where people were passing by.
As we walked by both Tricia and I wanted to see her again. I prayed quietly God would arrange that. Sure enough, he did. Not more than 20-25 minutes later there she was heading toward us in the opposite direction. Immediately, we walked up to her. Curious thing is, as soon as she saw us she started to smile. I'm not sure why. Her deeply-tanned face just lit up even though she had no teeth. We stopped to talk, and Tricia handed her some money telling her to have something to eat. She thanked her. I asked her name. Immediately she said, "Eve." We offered our names and shook her hand. She didn't appear nervous or perturbed by our little meeting.
I then asked if she was homeless? She said with no hesitation, "Yes, for 15 years." Tricia asked if she had a place to stay. She added again very quickly that (her homelessness) "was ending because the issue with the wallpaper store was being taken care of." We took it to mean she'd no longer be homeless and someone was handling the matter for her. Hmmmm.Was it all in her mind? Did something happen to a business she or her family once had? Was she injured in such a store or fired unfairly? Was she mentally ill? We don't know, and very likely she might not either. Being on the street for 15 years, if that's true, changes how a person views reality. Their world has been turned and left upside down, and because of the hardness of street-life, truth and fantasy can blur to suit the situation or sometimes just survive.You and I live a very different reality.
The conversation ended with we saying we were praying for her. Her face brightened again and she exclimed with verve, "Keep up the good work!"
Tomorrow if we see her, I'm going to find out if there's a way we can help her connect with someone to get off the street. She's a veteran of this life to be sure, but perhaps there's someone who has a fresh take on helping people like her in Atlantic City. There are many by the way. It might seem peculiar to say it, but she might not want anything to do with living off the street. We've met a number of folks in Northampton who have said that to us. Who knows if they mean it forever, but some mean it for, "Until I'm ready."
Pray we see her again tomorrow!!!