There's this girl at COA...michelle. She's 24, mexican, long black hair, dark eyes (usually with smudged mascara and eyeliner hiding them), dresses a little provocatively. She cycles between extreme shyness where she won't look you in the eyes or seems afraid of you or talking super fast about something silly like how she likes my sweatshirt, or how she loves to drink milk. She was there the first few weeks I started back in June...and I still see her pretty consistently now.
There's this guy who started out with a stone cold face....well almost...basically anytime I tried to crack a joke or wish him a good morning he just rolled his eyes. Pretty well put together tall black man, maybe in his 40s. Always with a crisp new hat on...so after a while I started calling out the fact that he has so many hats. and he told me they're usually new everyday (don't ask me where he gets said hats). So instead of trying to be funny or nice, i just started excitedly proclaiming that day's hat color. Somehow we've become friends. :) Wednesday and today he was pretty talkative...which for him means "so is it getting too cold out there for you?" To which i replied, "too cold to bike at least...I've been driving down here..." (which I immediately regretted...translation: my spoiled little self doesn't feel like riding my $300 bike while wearing one of many sweatshirts I have to pick from, so instead I jump into my warm car...anyways, enough about me, where'd you sleep last night in the rain??....i always struggle with this...this desire to identify with these people instead of separating myself from them. Jesus was among them!!! Moved into the lives of those he served...i digress...)
Michelle overheard this conversation about bikes and cars and started sheepishly asking about my transportation habits....and eventually got the courage to ask, "do you think you could give me a ride to the village? It's real close but it's so cold I don't want to walk". She'd been hanging out up where we serve so the steam trays would warm her. After she asked me I hesitated...looked for an excuse...told her I usually stay until 8:30....stalled, and finally couldn't find any reason to say no...as long as she was cool with waiting until 8:30. We got in my car and as we drove off she informed me that the village doesn't open until 9. she wanted to know where I lived and if it was close...I was vague and said something like oh, it's only 10 minutes by car, 30 by bike...and this whole time I'm trying to figure out why I'm acting like such a scared little brat. She would have had to wait outside the doors so I offered to drop her off at a coffee shop, she asked me for a dime. I told her I'd give her everything in my wallet...knowing I had no more than $2 in change. Still I had no idea why i was being so reluctant....why i was avoiding giving her information...(society tells me I should be careful? watch my back? protect my stuff and worry about myself)...I had told her I had somewhere to be, but really, it was 8:30 and I didn't need to be at hillcrest till 10. so I parked and we went into the coffee shop together. She pulled out some pennies from her pocket...I told her not to worry about it. I ordered for her after she stood speechless at the counter for a while. One large hot chocolate and a small soy hot chocolate for me. I told them my name for the cups. I didn't even think about it...but she was really upset by this. she wanted her own name on her cup. what's funny is my name is michelle too...but SHELLY was all huge on her cup and I think it was mostly a sense of ownership that she wanted for that hot chocolate. who knows.
this is getting long....I'm just disturbed by my hesitancy through all of this. i kept my purse close...put it at my feet in the car instead of the console between us. didn't know what else to ask while we sat so after it got awkward I just tried to practice patience while holding my cup...she thought i was mad after a long pause, but i reassured her over and over that i was just quiet.
Jesus didn't withhold a damn thing. he wasn't afraid of being taken advantage of. he didn't care if someone stole his possessions...possessions were fluid...things are things and they have no real value. and while i'm worried about myself and my ego and whatever was going on inside of me, this girl is going on 7 months on the street or much more as far as I know. and as she says hello to a friend on the street and he eyeballs her and gives a crude, degrading response I have a feeling she's had it pretty rough out there...and her heart's very much in pain and she's been abused and mistreated and forgotten that she's a child of God. if she's ever known that. she has a brother and sister and mom and dad in new mexico. she took a greyhound out here 4 years ago. first to LA, then long beach. I don't know...don't know much at all. just wish she could go home for christmas...stay warm and dry and know that she's valued and loved. i don't know if a hot chocolate communicates love or helps to accomplish any of those things...but i hope the next time someone asks me for a ride 3 blocks away, 30 minutes of time, and a dime I don't wait so long to offer what I have.