Monday, April 12, 2010
Flickr photo from Prisoner 5413
Her name was Eula, and she told me she was seventy four years old.
"I never imagined I would be living like this," she said, looking around at the Sunday school room our church had made into a shelter for homeless families for the week as part of our participation in the Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network.
"Homeless, at my age? Why, I've always had a home." She ran a hand through her thinning hair, and then rested it on the growth on her neck. The growth worried me. It was gray, like a huge skin tag, but had a reddish side. I tried not to stare.
"But I had to take Cindy out of that house," she said, then looked away. "I worked all my life, in a doctor's office. Dr. Jackson. Do you know him? I believe he went to church here. His wife was real sweet."
"No, I don't think I know him. Do they still go here?"
"Oh no. They passed on years ago. You would have liked them. They were fine people."
We walked to the game room and sat down on plastic chairs to watch her granddaughter play air hockey with the other children. She was a tiny little girl with a face like a moon, big blue eyes and a mane of curly hair neatly clipped with a barrette. Her nose was stuffed up, so she kept her mouth open to breathe as she played.
"Cindy, come here," Miss Eula said and held up a Kleenex. "Blow. There, that's good." She fished a Chap Stick out of her pants pocket. "Stay still." Miss Eula smeared it on her lips and nodded for Cindy to go back to playing.
"She's feeling poorly because she has an ear infection. Both ears, poor thing. I have to just about sit on the child to get her to take that medicine. You know, the pink stuff. She doesn't like it one little bit, but I tell her, 'Honey, you have to. We have to get you well.'"
"She looks like she might be feeling better since dinner."
"Yes ma'am. I believe it's finally working."
Miss Eula looks at the other children. "Those little black girls there, they've been so good to her. Lord knows Cindy needs them. She gets lonesome, with it being just me and her. It's been nearly a year now since her momma left, and do you know, she still cries for her? At night, especially. And her momma hasn't one time called or come to see her, not once. I thought she might on Cindy's birthday, but she didn't. At the school she goes to, the mommas, they come in to help in the classroom. I said to her, I said, "Cindy, I could come in and help your teacher,' but she said she didn't want me to."
Miss Eula raised her head, looked at me, and her eyes began to glisten. "I asked her if she was...if she was ashamed of me," she said. "She said no. She said that all the other kids have their mommas. She didn't want them to know that she didn't have no momma. I think it's the word momma that means so much to her. It's the word that means so much."
"But it's so wonderful that Cindy has you."
"Well, I do the best I can for her, but I'm not her momma. But I guess it's just as well her momma's gone with her drinking like she does. She's Spanish, so I put her over at this school where they teach the children Spanish, so maybe one day she could talk with her. But I don't know if it's ever gonna happen."
"I'm not gonna let her momma do anything to hurt her, that's for sure. And her daddy, my son, he was living with us, but he's not any better, I'm sorry to say. And one night it got so bad that I just packed us up and we left with little more than the clothes on our backs. So here we are."
"You're taking such good care of her."
"Oh, I'll take care of her. I'll take care of her if it's the last thing I do. But, she does have some nice friends at school, so it's not so bad. Her best little friend at school is Dr. Smith's little girl--Dr. Smith, from the Greenville clinic. Do you know him? He's a good man. A nice family. They had us stay with them over Christmas and they made it so nice for us. They even bought us presents. I wish I could have given them something, but I guess they understood. They did let me fix some cornbread for them to have at Christmas dinner. Dr. Smith says you just can't find good cornbread around here, and he sat there and ate three pieces. Three! I tell you, it did my heart good to see him enjoy it so. There are good people in the world, thank the Lord.
"I'm hoping I can get a job of some kind, but it's not easy now, at my age. I've got an application in at a grocery store, and another for cleaning houses. I didn't think life would be this way, but you just never know. We're not promised anything, are we? But Cindy and me, we have each other. She's a blessing, even with all that's happened."
Hey friends. I was so inspired by Miss Eula's story that I wanted to share it with you.
Have a beautiful Monday!
PS. Names were changed, of course, for the sake of privacy.
If you have time, I hope you'll watch a bit of this video from Family Promise. If this charity interests you, you might want to find out if they have an affiliate in your area. Our church hosts three families for one week, three or four times a year. It's a wonderful way to meet incredible people trying to get their feet back on the ground.