As I unlocked the door at 9 on that rainy Friday morning, she was standing on the porch with her familiar

blonde hair and blue eyes. I did a double take, as I thought I recognized her from before, but she looked so much healthier and more kept than the person I was thinking of, so I second guessed myself and opted not to say, “Wow, you look great, e!en though I was thinking it. "he greeted me warmly, as she shook off her umbrella and left it on the porch. I walked her inside, and she sat across from me at the front desk. I kept studying her face, trying to decide whether she was the person I remembered from pre!ious !isits, or was it #ust that she resembled her$ %he person I remembered would stop in to get hygiene products and toothpaste, often looking tired, dirty and defeated. I would see her around town pushing a shopping cart and e!en sleeping on benches, congregating with some of the homeless people in the city& 'ut the person sitting in front of me that morning looked different. "he had a sparkle in her eye, her hair was styled nicely and her clothes were clean. (er gold )hristmas pin on her #acket glistened as the light reflected off the red and green rhinestones. %he office was momentarily *uiet, so we engaged in con!ersation. “(ow can I help you, I asked. “I+m hoping you can. I+m #ust trying to see if I can get a round trip bus pass to the mall, please, she said politely. "he e,plained she was on a #ob search. 'us passes, unfortunately, are not a ser!ice our agency offers, so as I made a few phone calls and waited for them to be returned, I took the time to learn more about her. “I was homeless for a while, she began to say, which confirmed my idea that I thought I knew her from before. “)an I #ust stop you right there$ I asked, somewhat abruptly. -I+m not really known for mincing words.. “When I first saw you, I was going to tell you that you looked great, but I wasn+t sure it was you. I remember you from before. /ou+re clearly in a better place. What helped you get back on your feet$ I asked, wanting to know more about her #ourney. “I got a wake0up call, she said. “"omething happened that #ust made me realize that I want to be here for my kids. %hey+re grown now, but I want grandbabies, she said with a smile.

From there we chatted for about 12 minutes. I was completely mo!ed by her story, a true tale of a downward spiral that somehow ended right0side up. And a lesson for me, in the midst of the )hristmas season, that couldn+t ha!e come at more appropriate time. I wanted to know what made her decide to turn her life around after a year and a half of being homeless in "aratoga. I was compelled to know how she got there in the first place. "he e,plained that she had led a wonderful life. "he was a stay0at0 home mom, once married to an e,ecuti!e of a large organization. "he was passionate about her kids, gardening and being a homemaker. 'ut o!er the years, her marriage dissol!ed, her husband lost his high0 paying #ob, her kids grew up, and she was left working a low0paying #ob to help stay afloat. A di!orce, boredom and feeling unfulfilled made the occasional drink seem like an acceptable pastime. "oon, the loss of e!erything she knew had her li!ing on the streets. "o, for a year and a half, she learned how to li!e her life as a homeless woman, tra!eling with those who were more familiar to the lifestyle. "he admits that, although she would drink, she didn+t “need to. "he ne!er considered herself a “drinker since she really only en#oyed drinking one particular kind of rum, and if she didn+t ha!e it, she didn+t drink. "he realizes now this is likely what helped her do a 134. "he went on to tell me that a few months ago, she was so sick, malnourished and e,hausted, she could barely walk5and while crawling down the area of 6oute 24, a kind woman stopped to help her. %he last thing she remembers is being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, falling asleep on the gurney. %hree days later, she awoke to the sound of a hospital )haplain reading someone their last rights. %his time it wasn+t hers, but the person in the ad#acent bed. At her own feet stood a doctor who s*ueezed her foot and said, “)an you feel that$ %his is it, 7ancy, it+s now or ne!er. /ou don+t get a second chance. "he learned she had sur!i!ed se!ere pneumonia, a ma#or blood transfusion and malnourishment. (ad she not gotten to the hospital when she did, that doctor would ha!e been right. "he attributes her sur!i!al to that kind woman who stopped her car that day. “I remember her face, her car, her !oice, she said. “"he has no idea what she did for me. As I listened to the woman in front of me tell her story, I had the realization that hers is one that could literally happen to almost anyone. 8nce seemingly on top of the world, she had been to the

bottom and was now on her way back up again. I had seen her many times pushing her shopping cart up the street5 and e!en in the office on occasion5and while I didn+t #udge her, I admit that I didn+t gi!e her story much thought at all. 7e!er once did I think that she and I might be sitting here one day, sharing our similar stories on the #oy of being a stay0at0home. “I once had diamonds in my ears, she said, “'ut e!erything I had has been lost or stolen. I+!e gotta start all o!er from scratch, starting with my health, she stated matter0of0factly. 9i!en the simple gift of temporary shelter and support through agencies like ours, she+s in the process of rebuilding from s*uare one. “I+m only asking for the things I really need these days, she said, as she turned down my offer for items from our food pantry, “but I+ll take that :nsure because the doctor said I need to put some weight back on; I took down her phone number so I could call her if I found a bus token. After she left, I took a moment to reflect upon the amazing interaction I #ust had. Whether it was the emotion of the holiday season or the lesson I had learned, I began to cry, grateful for the whole e,perience. "he has no idea what she did for me that day. 'ut at least I helped her catch that bus.

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