I was in line at a gas station convenience store today, getting smokes, fuel and a cold drink. A woman walked in - I wasn't sure if she caught my eye because I thought she was attractive or because she looked familiar. I didn't stare, she disappeared down an aisle. She came out of the store while I was pumping my fuel, walked right toward me, said "excuse me."
She asked me if I remembered her and I told her I thought she was familiar when she came in the store.
"You helped me at Wal-Mart three years ago."
I remembered. She looked different then - no make-up, not so clean and kept, worried and stressed, sad, defeated. She had been with her daughter, at one of the self-checkouts. They rang up their items, did not have enough money to pay for all of them, and put three back. I remember the three: a bottle of hair conditioner, a pillow and a pack of notebook paper. The girl was distraught about it, broke down in tears and mom consoled her and hugged her but she was still sobbing when they walked out. Outside, they weren't parked far from my bike. I loaded my stuff, saw mom crying outside the car, daughter crying in the passenger seat. I had debated buying the items inside, but I didn't. I approached the woman gently, spoke quietly and convinced her we should go back in and get those three things. We talked while we stood in line. They were homeless, living in a tent, daughter had given up hope but mom was confident she would rise again. I was, too. I gave her some money, doesn't matter how much, and asked if I could speak with her daughter. I don't remember what I said to the kid, I'm not very good at being inspiring, but I'm honest when I speak. I told her some crap about being lower than they were once, that it always gets better, to trust her mom and don't give up. I gave her 50 dollars and told her that was just for her, to get something fun or sweet - not for surviving. She gave me a kiss on my cheek and I could feel the wetness of her own cheek from crying.
When I rode away, I was feeling pretty low - like I wished I could have done something more. Anything more.
Now here she was today, all prettied up and smiling, dressed nicely. Her hair was styled. And she thanked me and told me that I had made a huge difference in their lives and she had always hoped to see me again. I nearly cried. I asked if her daughter was with her, and she was. She looked so much healthier and happier, too. She said I was right, that everything got better. Mom has a job, they have an apartment, they have a cat. I did cry, but not until I was riding away.
I'm so proud of those two. I'm so happy for them. We have to do the little things we can for people because we don't know how that little thing contributes to all the other little things that create change. We never know how someone might be years later if we can help them through just one day.
And sometimes we do know. Today I got to experience that. It's fucking priceless.