Transformative Experience

Author Aryn Hundley

I often used to stop and talk to homeless individuals who were often holding up various signs.  I’d simply stop my car, cross the road and just ask them what they needed most.  I say’   used to’. I don’t do that now because I have small children and I can’t just leave them alone in the car.  I do plan, however, to continue with this, when the children get older and more able to understand.

About four or five years ago I stopped to talk to a man whose sign read something like: “Homeless, have children”.  I actually thought he was lying, but that didn’t faze me. It’s not uncommon, even understandable, for a homeless person to say that they have children as they are in such desperate need of help.  I have experienced dishonesty from many homeless individuals but I always figured that, as long as I was providing them with the things they needed, and not handing them money, any dishonesty I sensed was really of not great importance.

Well… this chap and I talked for a quite a while.  He told me about his sons. I’ll use their first initials – Z and J… around four and two years old respectively, he said, and that they all lived with his mother at the local motel.  He told me that his name was Tony and that he was currently ‘between jobs’. He also told me that his mother would be better able to tell me more about what kind of things the kids needed.  I took his telephone number and promised to call.            

I called, expecting it to be a fake telephone number yet, lo and behold, I heard the voice of an old woman on the other end of the line.  She said her name was Gladys and told me her grandchildren’s sizes and what food they were in need of, so I went off and bought everything she had listed.  

I won’t go into every last detail as to how much these strangers changed my life but they really became a very big part of it. They started coming to our little church and people from the church would often help them by offering rides. I got some more clothing and food for Gladys , J, Z, and Tony and also bought Krill oil for Gladys’ old, aching joints. 
Gladys even became my friend. She confided in me about how hard it was to take care of the two boys and I even became privy to certain details of her life, and how she had ended up taking care of these little boys in order to help her son.  Those boys were such a handful, and to this day I really don’t know how Gladys managed it all. This went on for months. She even visited me at my place, bringing the boys who spent the entire time playing gleefully on our trampoline. 

Then, one day I went to their home to check up on how they were all doing and…  Their truck was nowhere in sight.   I called their number… thankfully, Gladys answered, explaining that that they had moved suddenly… to West Virginia.  I still don’t know the real reasons why they all took off so suddenly, but I think they may have had some family there.  Of course, at that time, it all felt quite weird … even a tad suspicious, and I was also well aware that poor Gladys was very much at the mercy of Tony. He was really quite a good guy… just a bit misguided.

When Gladys told me that I just sobbed. It felt like such a great loss for me.  I hadn’t even had the chance to hug Gladys goodbye one last time. She had promised to call me, but she never did.  She probably just lost my number. I called and called but after a while that number was deemed ‘not-in-service’. Gladys had actually given me an address in West Virginia so I did send a letter, but I never got an answer. I even sent them a wedding invitation when my husband and I got married.  I never heard from them again.

People kept telling me how good I was for doing all that I had, but the truth was that the whole thing had been a beautiful experience for me that I will never be able to forget them.  In my heart, it hadn’t been at all about what I had done for Gladys , Z, J, and Tony.  It had turned out that it was they who had blessed me….especially Gladys.

You just never know what surprises may arrive in your life when you open a dialogue with a homeless person.  It may well change you too.

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