She had spiked hair, looking a bit edgy for a woman in her late forties, but full of spunk and charisma. Her smile was contagious, and I needed to catch it. I was having a rough day – I had overslept, and woke up with a migraine. Then I arrived at work to be met by several frustrating emails and canceled appointments. It was looking like it was going to just be one of those days.
I was at the office supply store, picking up printer cartridges and post-it notes. I often volunteer to run to the office supply store – there is something about the rows of pens and notebooks and folders that speak to me – the static energy. all the potential for creativity just sitting on the shelves.
So, there I am, at the check out line. I make a pile on the counter – legal pads, pens, printer cartridges (can you tell we are an org ran by creatives?) – and Phyllis was acting like it was her mission in life to make sure I had a pleasant encounter. Being a natural Eeyore who was having a Terrible Rotten No Good Very Bad Day, I was resisting it with all of my powers.
She asked if I had a rewards card, and she pulled up our account by our phone number, because, of course, I had long since lost the card.
“Love Wins Ministries”… she mumbles to herself, as if dragging up a memory. I stiffen a bit, as not everyone loves church folk, and our battle with the City last year made us lots of friends, and a few enemies.
She snaps her fingers and looks at me, “You are the biscuit people!”, she said, referring to our distributing food on Saturdays and Sundays in Moore Square – a project we have done for almost seven years now.
I nod. “Yes, that’s us,” I reply, expecting her to say she saw us on the news last year when the City tried to stop us from distributing food.
She looks left, and then right, as if to make sure the coast is clear. Then she said, ‘I lived in Moore Square for a year. I was homeless and high all the time. I dug food out of trash cans and ate your biscuits and drank your coffee. Some weeks, that is all that kept me going. I owe you guys so much. You are the best!”
I laughed and said, “It seems like things are better for you now.”
“This past January, I have been sober two years. Things are so much better when you are sober. Harder, but better.”
We chat a few more minutes, and then I take my change and go to leave. As I am walking out the door, she hollers, ‘Keep doing what you are doing!”
As I walk to the car, I say out loud through streaming tears, “I will, Phyllis. I will.”