Thursday, April 9, 2015

Woman at the Super 8

We met in the parking lot of the Super 8. I was originally miffed because it would take me out of my way. I wanted my lunch, my latte, my couple hours with the other writers and readers and the rest of the coffee shop crowd. I would miss my routine, my stop off after class, time I spend immersing myself in the environment of my people. And the Super 8, for God’s sake. Stuff goes down in a place like that. But, then again, it was her home, and she had no car.

I have joined a gifting group online. It is a free sharing between neighbors. We offer up what we might have sitting around. We ask for that which we would typically pick up for a price. There is no money exchanged, no price put on a post. There are no haves, and there are no have-nots. It is me, helping you, and you, in turn, doing the same for me. The vibe of the group feeds my hippie, vegan, environmentalist, love and compassion, minimalist soul.

I had an excess of books in the house. I will ALWAYS have an excess of books in the house. Where MY pleasure with books comes from sharing, my husband’s comes from saving. We have piles and piles and piles upon the piles. I posted a few to the group. She raised her hand. “I would like them,” she said. I messaged her to set up the exchange. “Could you meet at the coffee shop?” “Could we make it closer? My car broke down.” “Where would you need to meet?” “How about Steak n Shake by the Super 8?” I thought for a minute and asked if she was living in the hotel. She said she was, and I asked her to share. The writer in me, or was it the human being, had to learn how she had come to call this home.

She grew up in hotels, promised her own kid he would never do the same. She was evicted from her last place, works full-time at the Comfort Inn, and is single mom to a six-year-old who, by the way, has the fullest head of curly hair and the most engaging smile a kid can have. Her rent at the hotel is about what it would be just about anyplace else. With clothes and rent and food for the two, she can’t make enough to afford a place of her own. So here she is, one year later, calling Room 214 her home.

I am not much one for a pity story. I am definitely not one for excuse. But I think of this woman living with her son in a place I am afraid to make a five-minute swap. I think of her full-time job, her twenty-four-hour solo parent duty, her hesitation to share her story with me for fear she might look less than or weak. I think of her hot plate and her griddle and my own gas range. I think of how I will later write of the groceries I shared with her, dollar store jelly and cans of beans, while I finish up my four dollar tea, plate of sesame tofu, and spicy peanut soba noodles. I am moved. I am moved to open my heart, to open my mind, and to see her not as an inconvenient stop but as a fellow human who is doing her best. I take the twenty-minute detour from my life. I listen, I share, and then I go on my way.

And now I feel the need to thank the powers that be.

I thank you, Father, for the grit you have given me. Thank you that, despite growing up in scarcity and lack, I have had it inside of me to bust through obstacles like they are Styrofoam walls. Thank you that, unlike my own mother, I never had to worry whether my children would have food. I never had to say no when they came to me for a snack. I never had to sit in the scorching sun with three little girls picking cotton all day to earn enough for a gallon of milk. Thank you that my bills are always paid, that the lights work and the water runs and that the house is warm whenever it snows. Thank you that my home is my home and that no one can kick me out. Thank you for all those adults who stepped into my life when stepping in was what was needed—with food, with clothes, with tuition or an encouraging word. Thank you for those adults. I hope the karma gods have been especially nice. Thank you for my education, for my job, my marriage, and my king-size bed. Thank you for blessing me as richly as you have, for bringing me to see the darkness as a gift in itself. And, thank you, Lord, thank you for the woman at the Super 8.