Leaning up against a concrete wall at Penn Station in Newark NJ a homeless women advanced in her years is trying to extract warmth from the train station as it serves as a bed. It’s just simply too cold to sleep on the ground on a windy Jersey January morning.
Pulling three pairs of new white socks from a bag I ask her if I can give her some socks and snacks.
Surrounded with lots of bags and a shopping cart she says yes with no emotion.
I could hardly see her face as the whipping wind had her wrapped in an oversized down jacket with the hood pulled tight and covered with blankets.
Making small talk I could hardly understand a word she muttered as her inner-city accent was almost incomprehensible yet she managed to say H-O-P-E.
I thought she was asking me for soap, she had to spell it out for me. She says, “I have hope, someone is praying for me, you don’t need to pray for me.”
In addition to the socks the plastic bag contained honey cough drops, cheese and crackers, pretzels, breakfast bars, a bag of Cheerios, and a tin of Dollar-Store Cookies.
She graciously received the bag without looking at the contents.
Walking back to my heated car I yell out to her, “there’s cookies in the bag!”
All of a sudden I saw what was a weather-worn face appear like a little girl smiling like she just opened a present containing a new doll. She coherently shouts back with her happy smile and says, “I love cookies.”
I no longer saw an older woman on the street, in my eyes she was just a little girl that loves cookies.
I broke into tears when she said that and tears drip down my face now as I write what I experienced on my journey today.
It was the best five bucks I ever spent. My heart moved in a way it never moved before.
This woman was once someone’s little girl that loves cookies and most likely had a bed and now she’s on the hard, cold streets at the gateway into New York City.
How does this happen? I don’t know and I don’t judge her but my empathy reached a new level today.
Now that I know she loves cookies my next visit to Newark will entail a visit to the Portuguese bakery or perhaps a batch of homemade oatmeal cookies.
I never made oatmeal cookies before and I don’t know how but I am willing to learn.