Her cardboard sign, held firmly between hands speckled with dirt and cigarette ash, flapped apprehensively in the wind.
Seeking Human Kindness.
A peace offering of Starbucks seasonal latte was offered to break the ice as I nervously approached her on the corner.
Katie had seen her a few weeks prior and told me how she had wanted to stop and say hi but was unable to because she was on her way to somewhere less important. Recognizing the sign, I quickly made a phone call to tell Katie I might be bringing someone home with me.
After exchanging friendly words over pumpkin spice latte and filling up an empty tank of fuel, I gave her our address and told her there would be a gourmet meal of meatloaf and mac n’ cheese served for dinner. She laughed, partly because the words “gourmet” and “meatloaf” are an odd juxtaposition and partly because the banquet feast seemed truly epicurean compared to the cold Carl’s Jr. hamburger someone had tossed out a window to her earlier in the day.
45 minutes later our new house guest arrived.
Here’s the bed.
Here’s the laundry.
There’s the shower.
Make yourself at home. Mi casa es su casa.
After a few moments of settling in, dropping arm-fulls of blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags in front of the washing machine, our guest appeared from the basement asking for a glass of water. Upon seeing the full gallon of orange juice in the fridge, she changed her mind.
We spent the night listening to her recant stories of life on the road-the places, the people, the experiences-all packaged together as if extracted from a National Geographic travel documentary. Fascinating things. For her, a “traveler,” as we came to learn it is called, life on the road was a choice made years ago. Not because of trauma or addiction or any of the myriad of normal assumptions we house-dwellers make.
It was simply a choice.
To live her Kerouac-Cassidy life to the fullest.
Bouncing from one town to the next seeking human kindness and spreading it in return.
Passion and excitement leapt from every word. Conviction of purpose punctuated every sentence.
Katie remarked how stunningly beautiful she was. Model-esque features wrapped in soft auburn hair that framed her face poetically. I was taken aback at her 780 credit score and her sense of urgency to pay her car insurance bill for the month.
Will you ever go back to a “normal” life?
Because this is normal. Some people talk about their beliefs others actually live them out.
It was that phrase that struck me most. Some people talk about their beliefs…others actually live them out.
In that instantaneous moment I had a sheer crisis of faith. Panic ran through my body as I sat up against the kitchen island, elbows firmly planted, my left hand cradling my oversized head evaluating my own credit score against hers.
Do I talk about my beliefs or do I actually live them out?
The orange juice container was now half empty.
Of course you live out your beliefs, my inner dialogue reminded me, look who’s sitting in your kitchen right now. And don’t forget about the latte and full tank of gas. Oh, and that you also laid down a crisp five-dollar bill at Starbucks to, you know, pay-it-forward, despite the fact that the person at the counter had no idea what that meant.
I was feeling confident once again. (Insert proverbial pat-on-the-back here).
780 credit score? Seriously?
I was saving that OJ for breakfast tomorrow because the kids wanted it.
I only got one piece of meatloaf.
Dangit, I forgot to write down her license plate number.
Conversation carried on late into the night as she told us about the best way to repair a broken control arm on a Nissan 280ZX. Something she had to do in Albuquerque back in the Spring. And also about the time she met up with a “gathering” of travelers at a Mayan temple in South America in 2012, just to see what would happen at midnight when the calendar, and thus our existence, supposedly ended. Nothing, apparently.
Do I actually live out my beliefs? Or do I just talk about living them out? The question rang loudly in my mind.
We said our goodnights, Katie and I retreating to our bedroom where we had carefully placed each of our boys strategically on the floor around our bed. Bauer, our Rottweiler, sleepily standing guard over them. And she descended the steps to the basement for a night of sleep.
The orange juice was now empty.
Morning came with the smell of fried potatos with onion, green and red peppers mixed in, scrambled eggs, and convenience store donuts-the kind with crunchy-crumbles on them, not white powder.
No orange juice was to be found.
Even the hotels I sometimes stay in aren’t as comfortable as your basement bed…and it sure beat sleeping in the Nissan. Do you have anymore orange juice?
No, I said reluctantly, But Katie went and got coffee for you.
Even better. I’m heading to Fort Collins today. Colorado really is the best state to travel through.
We consumed the eggs and potatos with ferocity. I wasn’t going to miss out on a second helping of food this time. Donuts were scarce as the boys ate most of them before they even made it to the table.
Thank you for the bed. And for the laundry. It’s been a while. She said as she packed up the tiny Nissan to head back on the road. I hope I get to see you both again sometime because now I have friends in Colorado.
Some people talk about their beliefs…others actually live them out.
We waved goodbye as she pulled away down the street, Elliott standing beside us doing the same with one hand and holding a bag of donuts in the other. Ones he had pre-licked, just so his brothers wouldn’t eat them, although I don’t think it would have stoped them.
I walked back into the house different and opened the refrigerator door. Glad that we were out of orange juice.
ps. if you happen to see our friend out there one day, holding her seeking human kindness sign, be sure to stop and offer your love and support. Oh…and make sure you have orange juice in the fridge.