3.22.2012

Good Deeds 2012 Week 12: Helped a Homeless Family

Good Deed: Helped a homeless family make it through the day.

Over a year ago I noticed a woman standing outside of the train station with a coffee can and a sign asking for help. She looked like she should have been commuting with the rest of us. Her hair was pulled back, her clothes were clean, and she wore makeup. She stood there silently with a tiny smile. Her sign asked for help to get through the day and she held resumes.

She was there daily and I would give her the change in my pocket or a piece of fruit that I didn't get a chance to have during the day. She always looked put together, there was no deterioration over time that would lead one to think she had a drug problem. I wondered how she ended up there. She looked like a secretary who had just lost her job. I hoped that when I went on maternity leave with B she wouldn't still be there by the time I returned to work, hoping she would have found a new job and a better situation.

But she was still there when I returned to work in August. I was so sad to see her. Recently I packed up a bag for her with nuts, water, fruit, and some granola bars. I walked up to her and told her I was sorry to see her there everyday and I hoped the bag of food could be her lunch.

Her name is Bonnie. She never, ever imagined she would be in her situation. Bonnie has worked hard all of her life. She bought her first home at 25. She did everything right. She has sales and administrative experience, but lost her job over two years ago and no one wants to hire a woman in her 60's. Bonnie takes care of her daughter and her two granddaughters. Her daughter was diagnosed with mental health issues years ago and was no longer able to work. Bonnie had to take custody of her granddaughters, who are in high school now. The four of them are living in a hotel. They have to move every three days per the hotel's rules, but she assured me it wasn't too bad since the hotels owners have three hotels they rotate through. The hotel room costs $65 each night. She scrapes together the money so that they can stay in the hotel and relies on people for food.

Each day she sends the girls off to school, takes the bus to the train station to stand outside with her can, returns to the hotel after rush hour to bring her daughter lunch and check in on her, goes to the library to search for jobs and print resumes, goes back to the train station with her can for the evening commute, and then heads back to the hotel with dinner.

I listened as she told me about her skills and asked if I know of any job she could take on. She mentioned two commuters who had promised to help her at their own companies and held onto the possibility that they would come through. She mentioned that as a young woman she used to operate the bridges in Chicago and knows sign language because her son was hearing impaired. "I just need to get back to work," she said.

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a VISA gift card that I received for Christmas. My plan had been to put it toward a new bag for work. But, clearly, the fact that I even had a job meant Bonnie needed it more than I did. So, I handed it to her. She pulled out hotel receipts and asked if I'd like to see them. I told her no, only that I was happy to help them cover another night in their hotel room.

What was your good deed this week?

1 comment:

Kim/reluctant renovator said...

That was sweet that you not only gave her the food and the gift card, but took time to get to know her as a person.