Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fantine in Okemos

Once upon a time in a town next to ours, a girl and her father were taking an innocent drive out to run errands and whatnot. Suddenly, a solitary figure emerged from the hustle and bustle of the town. She was standing on the street corner holding a sign that read: "Single Mom Will Work for Food and Diapers God Bless You!" Her eyes were downcast and she wore normal attire for a young woman: jeans, sweatshirt, jacket. She wore something else, though, something that was not normal attire for a young woman: shame.

Whether her story was true or not, my heart just broke for her. As dad and I drove on, she never left my mind. There she was on the corner in the snow. Though there was a possibility that she might have been just scheming for pity money, her image still haunted me. There she was...waiting for mercy but expecting to be scoffed at and ignored. There she was eating the entire Humble Pie so that she and her baby could survive. I had to do something.

I wanted to cry for her, but crying does nothing but provoke useless emotions. I felt so guilty; I had come home to a full refrigerator after shopping for the perfect Chevy Cobalt all morning and she was wishing for a scrap of bread and a diaper...maybe. She could be a liar, but regardless, she was alone on a street corner and I had to go back.

So dad and I went back to Meijer. Dad wanted to be completely sure (or at least more sure) that she wasn't just a street urchin begging, so he rolled down the window and asked her if she would rather have a gift card or diapers. She smiled, hopefully, and said she would like size 2 diapers. We were convinced. This woman was legit.

The delivery of her gifts was up to me, so I walked down the sidewalk after our purchases and delivered them to her. She didn't look at me. There were three or four other bags of diapers which had been dropped there as well, which gave me hope for her. I knew she expected me to drop the bags and run, but I didn't want to. I wanted her to know that...that she was important to me, that she would be alright, that somebody in this frozen world cared.

"How are you holding up?" I asked. "Are you cold?" She replied affirmatively, and I gave her a hug and said I was sorry. Right there...in view of all the cars on Grand River. I gave her what dad and I had brought and we wished each other a happy Easter. Then, after hours of standing on her pillar of shame, somebody picked her up in a junkyard car and she left.

I don't wish to tell this story in order to gain personal praise or recognition. I just wish to tell it because...she's not the only one. Why she resorted to this method of helplessness I may never know, but I would have felt terrible if...if nobody helped her at all. She is a human being who is in trouble; aren't we all? Don't we all need somebody to lift us up now and then? Why should we ignore her when we would hate to be ignored and left on the street corner all alone? We can't change the world, but we can change her life.

So if you pray, keep Grand River's Fantine in yours. I don't know where she is right now, but if she has prayers from all of us holding her up, poverty hasn't a chance with her.

Happy Easter :)

Delicious.

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