There is something so haunting about watching Rosa walk away…so sad, so empty…so grey. What was it??? Her story had touched my heart so much. Bumping along in the truck to take her back to the place which she called home…. It wasn’t a home, it was a wooded area outside of town, near the park. It was a place near the path people walked along to get their daily exercise in. This was not a home for humans, it was a home for squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, deer, raccoons, beavers, fish, spiders, rats, mice, wild dogs, coyotes, and possibly bears, but it was not a home for people.
However, Since it was freezing cold smack in the middle of winter, bears were probably out of the question. Rosa shared the insanity of her previous home. She described the unpredictable violence of her mother’s borderline personality disorder, the suicidal depression of her teenage children who reside there, and the controlling/violent ways of her children’s father. In all… it was too much to take. A life time of this environment had made it unbearable to face any longer therefore the environment that surrounded me now as I sat warm and comfy in the pick up, didn’t seem to phase her at all. As a matter of fact, it was inviting and comforting to Rosa compared to the hell she left.
The vision of Rosa walking away from me still haunts me though. It has been so cold here the last few weeks dipping down into the teens. Rosa needed under clothes like tights or long johns, but we didn’t have them this week. We had some warm sweaters and a few things that might help, but I promised her I would try and come up with some for next week. In the days that followed as I drove along the highway to work, I could not shake the thought of her sleeping out in her tent… with all of the other outdoor creatures.
Each night I take our dog Marley outside in the back yard multiple times to go to the bathroom. As I stand under the dark hazy night sky with the crisp cold air sneaking around the edges of the blanket that was flung over my shoulders-I think to myself, “Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad if you were stuck outside for the night. Within a very short while, that nonsense is cast from my mind. It is freezing out and there is no way that I would ever want to try and make it.
Rosa shared with me that teenagers often come down by the river on weekend nights to party and often stroll over to visit with Rosa. They think it would be so great to be homeless, to live by the river and party whenever they felt like it. Rosa tells them that it isn’t all fun and games. “It’s hard, really hard out here,” she shares with a bowed head as she opened the truck door. Her cold dirty fingers grasped the clear plastic box filled to the brim with clothes and food we had given her for the coming week. The empty lot that I dropped Rosa off in was desolate, nobody in sight. She called out, “Thank you” over her shoulder and headed off to the far corner of the lot where a little cement path curved around the small lake. As I drove away I saw Rosa standing with her heavy box sitting on a concrete bench resting before she walked on. Rosa was dipping her hand into the plastic Ziplock bag filled with left over popcorn from my daughter’s previous night’s sleepover. I figured that I liked cold leftover popcorn, maybe she would also.
Rosa returned to her tent alone since her companion would not be finished with the few hours of work that he was able to find for a while. She was alone, but safe. It was better than the other option of returning to her mother’s home. I am sure that I only know a slice of the whole story, but what I do know is that there is a woman close to my own age who has chosen to live outside in the middle of the winter with little food and no running water because it is a better place than the place that she left. God instructs us……Love not judge……I am slowly learning to do this. "Dear Lord, thank you for working on my heart... for giving me grace as I try and make sense of the whole idea of "love not judge". In Jesus' Holy Name, Amen