It happened in Walmart.
We were in the lotion isle, hoping to get in and out very quickly to make Savannah's basketball game on time. From the corner of my eye, I saw a woman with skin the color of milk chocolate approach me.
" Excuse ma'am, are you a Christian?" I was not expecting this in the lotion isle. "Ahh, yes, I am"
"I could tell you was in your eyes" she said to me.
"My name is Gloria"
Gloria went into a complicated story about her granddaughter who was on dialysis and in need of medication that cost 19 dollars and continued to tell me about the fact that she, her two daughters, and their children all lived in a hotel room together. Then she pointed to her outfit. It was a silk/polyester blouse with a floral print and a pair of Capri jeans "These and one other outfit is all the clothes I got. We don't hardly have food to eat. The baby is sick..." It kept going. She then told me about another Christian lady who had happily gone to the ATM and pulled out 60$ for her. "Hmm.. I thought, that was convenient for her. She said "if you don't have any cash on you we can go to the ATM, there's one up in the front of the store.
Savannah, my youngest was standing wide-eyed with a look of amazement on her face. I started to ask Gloria more questions.
"Are you picking up the prescription here?" "No, it's across town" " Ohh. How much we as the medicine again?""Around 19 dollars"
I opened up my wallet and found a 20 dollar bill. I pulled it from wallet and slipped it into her warm brown hands. "Oh bless you, I love you!" She squeezed me around my neck. I could smell the mix of desperation, lotion and the cramped smell of body odor and stale hotel room as she hugged me.
She grabbed Savannah in a grandmotherly embrace and told her she loved her too. Savannah returned her hug shyly and we watched Gloria walk away with the 20 dollars crumpled into her fist.
I have no idea if anything Gloria told me was the truth. From past experiences, I might guess no. Addiction seems to be the most likely of stories. After all, addition will make you do or say almost anything.
I read recently that:
-Over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have an addiction (excluding tobacco).
-100 people die every day from drug overdoses. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years.
-Over 5 million emergency room visits in recent years were drug related.
-2.6 million people with addictions have a dependence on both alcohol and illicit drugs.
=9.4 million people in 2011 reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs.
-6.8 million people with an addiction have a mental illness.
-Rates of illicit drug use is highest among those aged 18 to 25.
-Over 90% of those with an addiction began drinking, smoking or using illicit drugs before the age of 18.
These are powerful numbers. Depressing numbers.
Some would say that I only furthered her habit by giving her money. They might be right. My brief "God Bless You" might have vanished from her memory as soon as she walked away; and yet, for her to feel I didn't care about her suffering, even if that suffering was of a different nature than what she explained, to not care, or react in kind, seemed cold.
Maybe I'm wrong and naive.
If I would have had the time, I might have pushed further, drove across town to pay for her prescription myself, delivered groceries to her hotel room. This could have potentially been dangerous and something I would not have done with Savannah along. But to be assured that she was telling the truth would have been satisfying.
It makes me wonder, how have we become so addicted?
What are we reaching for to be fulfilled? Are we all addicted to something? Do we have the right to judge? I don't know what the truth was for Gloria. Her life sounded miserable and I felt grateful that her life was not my own.
Some seeds fall on rocky soil. Living a life that is wrought with suffering and struggle and heartache. It seems that might account for a great deal of why people become addicted. A feeling of hopelessness.
I hope my lousy 20 dollars reminded her that someone cared. It depresses me to think anything else.
God Bless Gloria--whatever the truth may be.
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