Hear My Cry
Early one morning, during a prayer call, my pastor started telling a story.
“I was in the mall parking lot, getting ready to go inside,” he said. “On the other side of me was a man struggling with somebody, trying to get them out of the car. I go on over, and see a very large woman who couldn’t get up from the ground and into her wheelchair.”
He paused for a bit. And I thought, “I can’t imagine being that messed up. Thank you, Jesus!” Mean, I know. Most other people, myself included, would have gone, ‘There but for the grace of God,’ and kept it moving.
“But this man really looked like he needed some help,” the pastor continued. “I pulled her up off of the parking lot asphalt, but her clothes kept slipping off, and we were making no headway.”
And it was thirty degrees outside yesterday, I thought again. Dear God.
“We flagged over another young brother, and we were finally able to get her up into the chair,” the pastor finished. “I just wonder, what if I wasn’t there to help? Or the other brother? That man would have been by himself.”
At that point, I along with everyone else went on with the energetic response of “He is able,” and “Hallelujah,” because it’s truly something else to risk throwing your back out, and in the pastor’s case, mess up his shoulder even more, for the sake of helping out a woman that by all rights probably put herself in that situation in some way.
That call me wonder what I would do in a similar situation. And the following is what I came up with, where I heard a call for help myself.
With the prayer call in mind, I went on to read reviews on a book that recently came out, by a model named Emily Ratajkowski. The book title is My Body. After spending a few days trying to locate it in-store, I found a copy and traveled to a local Barnes and Noble to pick it up.
The book itself is pretty short and straightforward, a memoir of her experience as a high-end swimwear model. In other words, she was clear on the point that her main role was to just stand there and look pretty in the majority of the situations in her career. However, her thoughts, feelings, and prior experiences around that really drew me in, especially as she described her mother passing away at a young age.
After reading that, I thought, “Wow, imagine waiting your entire life to be taken seriously, focusing on yourself alone, playing by all of the ‘rules,’ and you still get got in the end.”
Exhausted, I put down the book, and held my head in my hands in the middle of the Barnes and Noble. Like the cheapskate that I am, I read the entire book in-store instead of taking it home with me, and that tired my eyes out. Since it was sold out everywhere else, I didn’t feel bad; it was actually like a lending library situation where some other poor girl can pick up where I left off, and make a discovery about the mendacity of beauty for herself.
Then, I leave the bookseller, on a quest to find the perfect deodorizer for my cat’s litter box. Yes, I know I sound sooo single by saying that, but seriously, that thing needs something, stat. I go to one store, find nada. I tried on a pretty dress there as a distraction, but it looked like it was for someone that was a foot shorter than me.
“Es para las pequeñas,” I thought to myself as I put it back on the rack.
I leave the store, and go upstairs, to the shoe joint--- dollars to donuts, they don’t have a single thing for my size 11 self, but you never know. I don’t bother going in, though, because I saw a young lady outside, crying her eyes out, with only a hoodie and sweatpants on.
See, it was 40 degrees outside, so already I knew something was terribly wrong. I started to walk on by, and actually did. Something, however, told me to turn back, and despite feeling insecure about it, I do so.
“Look at me, doubling back like always,” I chided myself. “When will I learn that I need to be like an arrow, and keep going no matter what?”
But still, I asked her, “Hey, are you okay sis?”
The girl sobbed a bit, and turned towards me. “Me and my child are about to be thrown out of the Motel 6. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Do you have anything to give me?”
I looked at her one hand, which was holding a can of Dr. Pepper. I couldn’t help but think that it was filled with liquor, even though I didn’t smell a single bit on her. Then again, I’ve been down and out before, even with a job, so who was I to judge? Let (s)he who is without sin, etc. I reached into my pocket, and only found quarters. I didn’t give her that, because coins in her situation would be worse than nothing at all. “I’m sorry. I don’t have anything to give you.”
“That’s okay. Have a blessed day.” The young girl started to turn away.
That did it. “Give me your hand,” I said to her. I took her one free hand; it was small and chubby, like a child’s, but paper hard as if she worked with them. I took it between my own two hands, and folded them up.
“Do you mind if I pray for you?”
Still sobbing, the girl gave her permission. I ask her name, and the name of her child- Whitney and Tiara. I closed my eyes, and I presume that she did the same. I start out with “Father God, please give Whitney the strength to figure out what to do. Make her back straight, her spirit strong. Help her shield her baby from what’s going on, since she shouldn’t have to deal with this. Give her the spirit of victory…” I went on, rambling mostly. I don’t remember what I said, but flashes of light were blinking in front of my closed eyes. I finished my awkward prayer. I looked her in the face, and asked if she wanted a hug; I gave her one. Then I finally made my way forward.
When I left my ex and our old apartment several years back, I had to find a way to clean it out completely so that the landlord wouldn’t fine me. I had a huge couch in the middle of the room, and I was too weak to move it by myself, no matter how hard I tried. There were also tables and other things there that were just left all around, debris from another person that came by earlier. Eventually, I willed myself off of that couch and asked my neighbors next door for help.
Thing was, it was a halfway house for people in recovery. In happier times, me and my roommates would bother them with our noisy get togethers that lasted until the early hours of the morning; my one old roommate was a very popular guy with lots of friends, and the guys next door never gave us (much) trouble about it. So, I felt okay enough about going next door and asking for a little help.
Two of them came over, and helped me clean my place out. At the end, one of them just gave me the biggest hug, and I nearly broke down in his arms. I wouldn’t think someone like him would ever give me the time of day, let alone help me clean up my messy life. It gave me the strength to finish cleaning that apartment up.
So, fast forward to now. I hugged lil’ sis, and hoped that would be something for her. I touched the top of her head a little; “Girl, your hair is too pretty for you to be sad like this!” That got a small smile out of her.
I go on, but I kept thinking about her---how she was doing, if I did enough with a simple one-minute prayer. I went into other stores, trying to find the kitty deodorizer, and seeing nothing but signs, signs. One greeter said, “We want you to have a good time shopping!” or something like that; I felt bad because it made me think that I could’ve Venmoed her something, or other, instead of just a simple prayer or two.
But I kept walking, to check out the pet store. On the way there, I said, “Let me praise God for helping her already- and say that it’s already done! Hosanna to the Highest!” I clapped my hands, and called out to God, praising Him, telling Him to keep those two up high, to keep them in His arms, to cover them in the blood of the Lamb, all of that. I shouted out; I must have looked crazy to whoever was passing by.
It was at this point I realized that I wasn’t wearing a mask the whole time I was talking to her---during a pandemic. I got nervous. I thought, “That chick best not have given me anything.” She didn’t look sick, but she was crying, running nose, all that. And I hugged her, too. I pushed down my anxiety, however, and kept praising God.
I reached the pet store, and of course they didn’t have anything like I needed. As I was walking back, I realized something while I opened up an email from my church.
I was talking to the girl like I didn’t know her situation or what it was like, when in fact there were times in my life where I was near homeless and needed the aid of different places to pay rent, get food, etc. I grew ashamed that I was thinking of giving her simple dollars, when what she probably needed were resources like the ones I painstakingly researched during those times. It was easy enough for me to find, but what about for her?
“Oh no, I hope she’s still there,” I thought as I started to take my notebook out. I didn’t have a pen with me, so I took some liquid eyeliner and started making a list of places that I hit up for housing assistance. I listed my church first, of course; then, I added in Christ Church, which gave me a generous amount of money with no questions asked, and then Catholic Charities, which provided housing, food, and financial assistance. I finish the list of blocky letters, and then make my way back to where she was, only to find that she wasn’t.
I looked around for her a few more minutes, before giving up. Maybe my prayers caused someone to act on her behalf. Maybe it’s a sign that they’re working on some level. I hoped that would be the case, anyway.
I go on to catch a bus home, listening to music and trying to calm down. I thought about little sis.
The girl was heavyset, and she had the smoothest skin, baby-glow innocent. Her hair was in pigtails. Her face looked almost…asiatic, even though she was Black. Her language was fine, but a bit simplistic. She also had a really childlike quality to her.
And that’s when it hit me. She probably had Down’s syndrome.
I prayed for that girl, off and on, along with her child, for the rest of the ride home.
I’m still carrying her, in fact, in my heart. I hear the wind whistle and blow outside, probably at 20 miles an hour at this point of the night, temperature dropping to 16 degrees. I hope she is somewhere safe, warm, and at peace, out of the cold night.
I’m thankful for reading a bit about another, much more famous young lady that had struggles of her own, literally compelling me to step outside of my own problems to look at someone else’s.
I also thank God for the cosmic thread that held today’s events together, almost like a bad joke or a prank, or maybe an act of His providence.
And finally, I’m praising God for the freedom to roam around and see the world on my own terms, with clear eyes.
Now, let me go and get some zinc, Vitamin C, and calcium before I catch the ‘rona.