The cold air sent a shiver down my spine that rivaled the ice inside my stony heart. I’ve been on the streets for three years, and no one in the world cares whether I live or die. I’m all alone, without friends or family. I live under a bridge, along with a few other homeless people. Even though we are all in the same plight, none of us trust each other, so conversations are sparse, and friendships nonexistent.
Once in awhile people nod as they pass by, but most pretend not to see me. They treat me like I’m invisible, someone not worth noticing. That’s fine with me. I’ve been alone for so long, I don’t want anybody’s help.
“Would you like some soup?” a woman asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“I don’t need your pity,” was my terse response.
“It’s cold today. I thought you might want something hot to eat. By the way, my name is Teresa. What’s yours?”
“Nice to meet you, Julie. Here, let me pour some soup for you. It’s chicken noodle, my grandmother’s recipe. It’s perfect for a day like today.”
In spite of my protest, Teresa unscrewed the lid of her old-fashioned red plaid thermos, and poured me a mug of soup.
The wonderful aroma of fresh, homemade soup that swirled toward my nostrils caused my stomach to rumble.
“Is that sage I smell?”
“Yes, with a hint of rosemary. And the noodles are made from scratch.”
I eagerly held out my hands to receive the mug of steaming soup. I hadn’t had a hot meal in, well, three years. The soup warmed me and began to melt the ice in my heart as it traveled from my mouth down toward my stomach.
“Listen, I know a place you can stay. There’s no cost, and it’s safe and comfortable.”
“No thanks. I’ve lived here three years now, and I kind of like it” I said as I pulled my frayed , dirty wool coat closer to me, and scooted away from her.
“Julie, please let me help you. It’s supposed to snow tonight, and I can’t bear the thought of you spending the night out here in the cold. If you don’t like the shelter, you can leave in the morning. Deal?”
Next thing I knew, Teresa and I began to walk, side by side to the shelter.
I expected the shelter to be dirty, with wall to wall cots, so I was surprised when I walked into a small, but inviting living room, with bright yellow gingham curtains. A blazing fire that crackled in an old wood stove added warmth.
In the corner, a woman with two missing teeth, and gray frizzy hair played cards with a woman dressed in a business suit. No one but me seemed to notice they were an odd pair. Another woman sat in the corner, crocheting a pastel green baby blanket. A young woman who nursed and rocked a baby as she sang a sweet lullaby completed the group.
“Hey everyone, I’d like you to meet my new friend, Julie.”
“Hi Julie, welcome!” they all chimed together.
“I’m sure you’re tired. Let me take you to your room.”
Instead of the dingy cot I expected, there was a bed with a handmade quilt, and big fluffy pillows. As I ran my hand along the blue and yellow log-cabin design, thoughts of happier times in my grandma’s house came to mind Unbidden tears rolled down my dirt crusted face, and splashed down onto my coat. Teresa pulled me into a warm embrace and held me tight.
“There’s hope in Jesus, you know” she whispered gently in my ear.
She then helped me remove my coat, and handed me a thick, soft, lavender towel, and freesia-scented body wash, and led me to the bathroom so I could take a shower.
“Take as long as you want; there’s plenty of hot water, and everyone else has had their shower for the day.”
When my shower was complete, we sat down on my bed together, and she began to gently comb out the tangles in my wet hair.
“Who pays you to do this?” I blurted.
“No one pays me. I do it for love. You see, I’m a volunteer. I’ve chosen to help others, because once, Julie, I was just like you. I lived on the street, until a volunteer reached out with the love of Jesus, and rescued me. Maybe someday you’ll be a volunteer, too!”
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