Today was a fun day. I had the opportunity to meet someone new, saw beautiful Lincoln Park and it’s lovely Zoo and Greenhouses, and happened upon a food festival happening in the park! It was a pretty fantastic afternoon, and it’s really nice to see some of those quintessential Chicago places I haven’t been to.
The weather can’t be beat, and I GOT TO WEAR BOOTS FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS SEASON! If you know me at all, you know I LOVE BOOTS. It’s the one clothing item I could really throw down some cash on… I’ve been waiting for this day, and knew it would come much earlier here in Chicago than it did in New Orleans… Yesterday while walking around downtown, enjoying Oktoberfest, I noticed LOTS of people wearing them… I looked at my friend and said, “Ooooh, I can whip ‘em out!” …And I did. First thing this morning! It’s sooo fun to be able to wear boots and jeans and a cute top and not sweat while being outside all day. Perfection!
I got home a little before 7 this evening, and I knew I had some homework to finish up for one of my classes. Realistically speaking, the assignment itself would take me no longer than 25 minutes… However, I had to account for my procrastinating and avoiding and facebook-ing that would also go with it… The assignment was due by 11:59pm, so I figured I needed to start it no later than 11:30… Haha! But, since I was already thinking about it, why not just do it?
It makes so much sense to just get it out of the way, and then be free to enjoy the rest of my evening… But, my inner 5-year old needed some coaxing. The promise of a bath and watching a movie with a cocktail in hand by 10pm was NOT winning me over.
So, I walk over to the fridge to see if there’s any good “bribe foods”.
I ate the last remaining fortune cookie from the Chinese leftovers for “breakfast” with my diet coke… and I really try hard to not buy/ keep unhealthy things in my apartment… because I’m the only one here… and if it’s here, I WILL eat it.
However, having made the decision to NOT go out on Saturday night to be sure I’m wide awake and ready for my phone interview tomorrow at noon (so, don’t call me then!), I decide that perhaps I could buy some ice cream.
YES! That’s the ticket! I’ll be a fatty and buy some ice cream… and AFTER I turn in my treatment plan assignment, I can have some. (This is the bad thing about having a Baskin Robbins literally ½ block from your house.)
So, I get my keys and head out the door. Even though I know maybe 20 people in the city of Chicago, I secretly pray I don’t see anyone I know while I sneak off to get some ice cream. …Because for some reason, that idea mortifies me.
I do live in a city, and there is a homeless population here, as in most cities. They are a pretty friendly bunch in my neighborhood. I am particularly entertained by the man who says, “Get it, girl” almost every time I walk by.
I hop into the Baskin Robbins, which is ALSO a Dunkin Donuts (because why have only 1 type of fat-ass fun when you could have both at the same time?). Inside the store, there is a woman standing a few feet from the checkout. As I walk by her, she says, barely audibly, “Excuse me, miss.” Although not proud to admit it, I keep walking, bee-lining for the pre-packed freezer on my secret ice-cream mission. She continues, in half-voice, “could you help me buy a donut? I need 27 more cents.”
My ears take this in, while my backside is sticking out of the freezer, as I ponder the perfect flavor for my completely gluttonous (and unnecessary) indulgence. I ate a perfectly delicious turkey burger for dinner, with sweet potato fries. I am not hungry at all- yet I am buying ice cream and avoiding contact with any humans because of my own shame issues about having ice cream.
I pick my flavor, and turn around. The woman is small and fragile-looking, probably in her early-mid 60’s. Her clothes are sufficient, but somewhat ragged. I am still in my pricey boots, with my Coach clutch bag. I look at her, and gesture towards the register, “Come with me.” I put my ice cream on the counter, and I ask her, “What kind of donut do you want?” She says, “What? It doesn’t matter. Thank you so much.” I say, “Yes, it does matter. It’s your donut. Which kind do you like?”
A small voice responds, “Boston cream” as she looks down and offers the change in her hand my way. I gesture that the change is not needed.
The cashier approaches, he smiles at me, gets the ice cream, and asks if that will be all. I say, “I’d also like a Boston cream donut, please.” Just before he turns to get “my donut” he looks at the woman beside me and says in a different tone, “…and what do you want?”
The woman responds quietly, “I’m with her.”
I say, “Yeah, the donut’s for her.”
The cashier says, “Oh.” …In a voice that was a mix between perplexed and dismissive, at least to my ear.
The cashier hands me the bag with the donut in it, I hand it over to the woman beside me, and I hand my credit card over to the cashier.
No, I do not want a copy of my receipt.
The woman and I walk out of the store together, she thanks me several times. She offers me the change she had for her donut; naturally, I refuse it (again). She thanks me some more. I assure her, it was no trouble.
We cross the threshold of the store, and walk out onto Diversey and Halsted. She goes to the right, I head to the left.
I was humbled. She was fed.
As non-homeless people, we tend to make a lot of assumptions about homeless people: what WE think their needs are, what WE think they do with our money or food or whatever we give them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not my place to judge or assume. I don’t do what I did tonight enough. I will make an effort to do things like that more often. I’m not sure why I was so moved to do it tonight, but I’m glad I was. I won’t miss those .99 her Boston cream donut cost me. …And I felt like I did what I could to help in the moment.
I don’t know her story, her life, her struggles, her hopes, her dreams. She doesn’t know mine.
But, for those 45 seconds or so, in the store, when she said, “I’m with her” we were together. Two women. One enjoying a donut, another ice cream.
It’s about humanity; it’s about the small things.