The first time I saw her was last summer. She was waiting in line at the neighborhood supermarket. Her exposed belly was round and perfect. Speaking in a soft and polite tone, she asked Maya — the cashier — if she could pay on the following day. “I forgot to bring money,” she said with downcast eyes. Maya told her that there was no charge for a day-old croissant anyway.
I love Maya.
She thanked Maya and left. I bought food for the homeless people I’d seen in the nearby park, but they were gone by the time I got back. Leaving the park, I ran into that woman again. The large designer shopping bags she was holding caught my attention. They seemed odd because all the shopping centers had closed hours before.
She was probably homeless.
I started a conversation with her, looking for an excuse to give her some food: sometimes all people have left is their dignity. Then she mentioned that the bakery next door had refused to heat up her croissant.
“I happen to have some food that I don’t need,” I said in the most casual tone I owned. “Would you be interested?”
She wouldn’t take the food before I assured her I wasn’t hungry.
When she was about to leave, I asked, “Do you have anywhere to stay?”
“I have nature,” she replied.
“That’s great. But maybe you have a family; someone to go to.”
“I have no one.” She paused, and then added, “But God takes care of me. I trust only in God. And I can sleep at a café that’s open 24/7.”
I didn’t know what else to say without being too intrusive. We went our separate ways, and I regretted it almost immediately.
I stopped by the supermarket again and told Maya that I was concerned about that woman. I speculated that maybe she was pregnant. Maya knew her from her previous visits to the supermarket.
“She is not pregnant,” Maya said. “She is a prostitute and an alcoholic.”
“A woman in prostitution: not a prostitute,” I said.
“You should be careful,” Maya continued. “She could get violent.”
I went to Movieing café, and just as I walked in, it dawned on me: if she was a woman in prostitution, maybe an alcoholic as well, I knew of a great organization that could help her. Either way, I shouldn’t have left her without finding a solution for her.
Mishori, a good friend who worked at Movieing, saw my distraught face. “Are you OK, Lilac?” he asked.
“I just missed an opportunity to help someone,” I replied.
Despite Maya’s warnings, I hurried back to the park. It was dark and deserted. Then I went back to the supermarket and asked Maya to let me know if she ever saw that woman again. Maya didn’t see her again. Then Maya quit her job at the supermarket.
A few nights ago, the woman resurfaced in the neighborhood. She was holding one of the same designer shopping bags, this time just one small bag. She was dressed fashionably yet casually. Wearing a huge hat, she held many little plastic bags in her hands as well. As I watched her, she walked into the bakery. I didn’t know what else to do but wait until she headed in my direction.
“Hello,” I said when she finally left the bakery and started to walk past me. Feeling very awkward, I asked, “Do you remember me?”
For a second, she looked confused. Then she said, “We talked a while ago.”
“Yes, and ever since then, I’ve been worried about you and looking for you.” I paused. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. “I want to help you.”
“There is nothing to worry about. I’m doing great, and I even have my own place now.”
“That’s wonderful.” Then I asked, “Can I buy you dinner?”
“No need,” she replied. “And I can buy you dinner, too.”
“I have to go now. I don’t want to miss the last bus. But call me and come to visit me. I will tell you my story.”
“What’s your name?” I asked after she had given me her phone number.
“Messiah,” she replied. And then she left.
(Click here for A Woman Called Messiah, Part II)
My word. That actually gave me chills when you said, “What’s your name?” And she responded, “Messiah.”
Lilac! Your encounters with humanity are beautiful, (although sometimes nerve wracking!) and your wish to help people inspiring. I read this to my husband because I was so enthralled with this particular encounter AND the fact I got goosebumps when the girl told you her name. I can almost see you collecting these and putting them into a book. “Encounters with Humanity, A New Age Nun’s Mission” or something like that. Like those little vignettes in Chicken Soup For Soul.
Like JLo says on Idol – GOOOOOSIES! Yep, I got them. Can’t wait for Part II!
Donna, I also had goosebumps, or as JLo says on Idol – GOOOOOSIES, when she told me her name. This was one of the most powerful encounters I’ve ever had. This and part II, which I can’t wait to share with you…
And what an honor that you shared this with your husband! Thank you so much, my precious friend. That deeply touched my heart.
Collecting these and putting them into a book is a brilliant idea. I looove it…And I looove the title “Encounters with Humanity, A New Age Nun’s Mission”! Goosebumps. YEP! <3 <3 <3
Oooh, now you’ve really piqued my curiosity even more! I can’t wait for Part II!
I’m glad you liked the title/idea! Not to go down the proverbial rabbit hole here, but if you can find special/meaningful endings to these vignettes, the sort of endings that tie together loose ends, and completes a journey (for you or the other person) or sends a very specific message, then you could organize them into particular categories, (maybe take a look at one of those Chicken Soup books for structure/layout?) I think you would eventually have the materials to pitch a non-fiction book proposal. Perhaps even use the Chicken Soup books as part of the pitch, i.e. this book is like Chicken Soup for The Soul meets The Purpose Driven Life, or something like that…
You’d likely have to collect a LOT of these and choose the best ones.
Now for the other side of this…non-fiction is an odd area when it comes to inspirational stories. The only possible downside I can see, if I’m being honest, is about platform, i.e. media presence, with credentials or something that makes you an authority on working to help people. On the other hand, instead of this being a book that is inspirational, maybe it’s a memoir. A memoir might be the best avenue in this case. ***Note: This is just me blabbing/brainstorming, after two cups of coffee. ***
🙂 <3 <3 <3 We know this means smiley head and hearts – although your site won't change it to that!
Wow, Donna…thank you so much for your detailed and enlightening comment!!! :-*
I actually had a concept in mind when I started this blog. That’s why I called it Writing & Interacting. I planned to write (especially) about my interactions with people at the neighborhood café (which reminds me a bit of Friends), and the unusual people (to say the least) that I run into at the neighborhood park.
And I love coffee***…Fixing myself another cup as we “speak”… 😀
Your brainstorm is awesome!!! And so timely… I think I could tie these stories together and organize them into categories. And that’s a great idea to look at one of those Chicken Soup books to learn from it how I can create a structure/layout, not to mention, use it to pitch this book: like, as you suggested “Chicken Soup for The Soul Meets the Purpose Driven Life”…You are sooo brilliant, Donna!
I am trained to help people in a very specific way. Still, this is different. And I think that you are right: a memoir might be the best avenue in this case. How knowledgeable you are about non-fiction. I know nothing about it…
We really need to explore this further in the future. I have many stories to tell and collect…every time I leave my apartment, something happens. I always interact with people, and people usually feel comfortable telling me their stories…maybe they can sense that I really care about them.
Also, I tried to change the <3 into an actual heart symbol, but nothing happened. Thank heaven I didn't ruin anything in the process...I'm such a klutz...LOL 🙂
How blessed I am to have a wonderful and caring friend like you!!! <3 <3 <3
Definitely can plan more for brainstorming in the future!
And after I’d thought about it, maybe memoir is the way to go, b/c non-fiction is more about being a Subject Matter Expert on a topic, and already having a large platform, or speaking engagements, etc. I.e. some way to show publishers your the SME on this topic. Either way, no matter, still compare the Chicken Soup and Purpose Driven Life books to see what worked.
And then READ A LOT OF MEMOIRS.
Anyway! Great story telling, either way, and I look forward to Part II!
Yay for brainstorming in the future!
I will have to enlarge my platform, and I will definitely compare the Chicken Soup and Purpose Driven Life books to see what worked. It is such a brilliant idea, Donna! I will also have to find a way to read more books pretty much simultaneously (my genre and memoir…HELP!!! LOL).
The easy part is collecting more stories. 🙂
Thank you so much for EVERYTHING. You make me so happy!!!
This is really cool, Lilac. I love your ‘voice.’ It’s obvious you love humankind in a very non-preachy kind of way. I loved the distinction you made between a ‘prostitute’ and a woman in prostitution. Sometimes I get tired of the hypersensitivity to saying the politically correct phrase, mostly because it feels like people are just trying to impress others with how very considerate they are. This didn’t strike that chord at all. This sounded like someone actually caring about the person behind it all, and seeing them as a human and not what they did. Very inspiring.
Lennon, what a delight to have you here! 🙂 Thank you so much for loving my ‘voice.’ It is so important to me not to be preachy and to treat everyone equally. As for the term “woman in prostitution,” I believe it’s a feminist term, and I feel that it promotes compassion. I hope that every person I interact with will feel cared for, and if possible, empowered as well. Thank you so much for your beautiful and heartwarming words, dear friend!
Nicely written, Lilac. You seem like a very good and caring person. I’m curious to read part 2 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind words, Sarah. It’s lovely to have you here, and it will be my pleasure to share part 2 with you as well. 🙂
Oh wow. This was great. I loved it. Well done. Such a subtle, sweet voice in your writing.
WOW, Julie! Thank you so much, my dear. What an amazing compliment… <3
Lilac, another evocative trip to your world. Haunting, the forces most of us pretend we cannot see or don’t know are all around us. It is an act of great power, that you open yourself to it, and to others.
Diane, I feel humbled by your beautiful words and message. And I have a feeling that we are very similar…<3
In all sincerity, that’s a higher compliment than I’ve earned. My suspicion would be, you and I are that sort of unalike that attracts, though, and intrigues – and instructs. 🙂
I love your choice of verbs, but I still think that we have the same kind of heart, Diane. <3
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