by Lynn Kim Do

A Gift from The Homeless Woman

Minutes from 8pm. On a Wednesday night. Low 30s and even more frightening winds. We decide to all split up and head home. Hard to tell if what I am feeling is disappointment or relief. We had decided to all gather together, some of which each were familiar with but not all collectively, on this cold evening after our 10 to 6s to hand out blessing bags filled with hand warmers, granola bars, scarves, tooth paste, tooth brushes, pads, among other things we can only hope will make those living in the street a bit more comfortable this winter. But the cold, the darkness, has made it harder for us to find them. And that is probably a good thing. I mean, they could use this bag. But they could probably appreciate shelter and heat more right now. I hope they’re somewhere warmer tonight. Right now. 

Walking, practically running, to Astor Place to catch the 6 train, I am carrying two bags. One in each hand. I see a woman. She is stumbling. She is with a man. She is wearing a light jacket. Oh, how cold she must be. I can give her a goodie bag! Maybe him, too. I see him shake his head and walk away from her. Aggressively. As I approach her, she takes a hard swig out of her little bottle of FireBall. Oh. I see. 

I keep walking, now almost in sporadic and sudden sprints. To get the blood going. My shoulders are high in any effort to cover any bare neck space. Past the corner where Pommes Frites use to be. The images of those far gone. Sad. Past Misoya Ramen. Oh man, I can use a large bowl of hot soup right now. Right before I make a left on St. Marks, I see a woman sitting on the ground against the Walk or Don’t Walk pole. Thin blankets surround her but how many would she really need to stop the concrete from biting back. Bags, many bags, are pressed against her back. Her hair is short. Like mine! But not quite like mine. I like her face. It’s gentle. 

“Would you like a goodie bag?”
“Yes! I would love one.” I didn’t have any real expectations but for whatever reason, I didn’t expect the enthusiastic tone laying in her tongue.
“Here, please.”
“Thank you. You know…” I can feel her pain. “I spend many Christmases alone.” I, I don't know what to say. To feel. I want her pain to go away.
“I hope this one is better for you. And much warmer.” What did I just say? I’m a fucking idiot. Say something better!
“I’m Linda. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Linda. I’m Lynn”
“Thank you so much,” as she stuck out her hand.
I grabbed hers, “No, thank you.”
She takes that same hand to her heart. And I smiled and continued my route.

But what she doesn’t know is that my route may have been the same. But I am. I am not the same. She is the one who gave to me. A larger gift, larger than anything I gave her in that brown bag. More meaningful than the hand written note we scribbled on 60 different postcards. She showed me hope. Hope in all it’s scales and weight. When loneliness creeps inside us or surrounds us. And as I sit this 6 train heading to Brooklyn, I dessert this interaction down to the core of its elements. I realize. I realize that there is always something to be hopeful for. Grateful for. And even loneliness, one of the largest obstacles I watch my closest friends and family break under, has room for hope. For life. 

I will never forget this moment. Our interaction. And her.

Visuals by Daniela