She’s pretty. And young. But her face looks like she’s lived a hard life.
She was homeless for a year. Nearly four hundred days of skid-row poverty.
One summer day, she stood at a stoplight, holding a cardboard sign. It was hot. She was dehydrated. Hungry.
“Ain’t never begged before,” the girl said. “Holding a sign’ll make you feel stupid, man.”
Cars passed. No donations. A policeman finally told her to move along. Before she got far, a Cadillac pulled beside her and opened its door.
The old lady inside asked her, “You on drugs, honey?”
“No ma’am, not no more,” the girl said.
“Look me in the eye,” the old woman said. “Tell me the truth.”
And it was true. The girl had quit using, four hundred days earlier. In fact, that’s why she was homeless.
Not long before, she’d been a good student from a broken home. But after high school, she moved in with a man of corrupt habits. When she quit using his goods, he kicked her out.
She had no car. No home. No friends. She stole a tarp from someone’s pickup truck. She made camp behind a strip mall. She ate from a dumpster, and slept on a bed of plastic bags.
Until the woman in a Cadillac.
The old woman was a strong one. Solid, with cropped hair. She fixed up a spare room, gave the girl clothes, fresh sheets, feminine-smelling soaps.
“She fed me,” said the girl. “Treated me like her kid. Kinda scared me at first, didn’t know if she was some weirdo.”
The old woman was no weirdo. She cooked suppers, complete with frilly placemats and iced teas.
They ate with napkins in laps. They did dishes together. They talked late into the night about meaningful things.
The old woman told her about her late husband. About never having children. About her career as a nurse.
The girl told her about a busted-up family life, a runaway father, and how she’d always ended up with the wrong boy.
They became roommates. The old woman found the girl a job, she taught her to balance a checkbook, how to cook, how to backyard garden.
The young girl’s life shot off like a bottlerocket. She saved money to buy a car. She enrolled in community college.
One morning, the girl woke early. It was the beginning to an average day. She cooked breakfast for them both.
She knocked on the woman’s bedroom door. No answer.
“I just felt something was wrong,” she said.
Something was. The old woman’s body lay slumped on the floor, in a nightgown. She was cold.
Well, that was four years ago.
Since then, our girl has come a long way. She recently got a new sleeve-tattoo—one with poem lyrics on it. She is decidedly proud of her sobriety.
She has money saved. And when she’s finished with her bachelor’s degree, she plans on traveling for a few months.
“You know,” the girl said. “All I needed was a chance. That’s why I wanted to tell you about Miss Linda, see. She gave me a chance.”
She sure did.
Rest in peace, Miss Linda.
Gwen McGill - August 30, 2017 1:38 pm
I want to be like Linda.
Summer - August 30, 2017 1:45 pm
Gwen, I had the exact same thought.
Sandi in FL - August 30, 2017 1:41 pm
Everybody deserves a chance to shine. Everyone has value and worth.
Trudy :) - August 30, 2017 2:09 pm
There’s a lump in my throat. This is a happening familiar to me. He is covered in tattoos, rougher than rough looking, a don’t-fool-with-me look on his face all the time, has spent some time on the back side of jail bars for something “stupid” he’d done, has a “family” of fellas who will come to his assistance, if he needs them, and is a minister at the mission where down trodden men seek refuge. He shared all this with me as we sat and talked about when he was my student. He laughed telling me how he remembers I wouldn’t let him in my classroom if he had anger bottled up. He laughed when he said, “Sometimes, if you remember, I had to stand in the hall for 10 minutes before you’d let me in because you told me, ‘For 45 minutes you will not carry that anger with you.’ ” Yes, I remembered. He was starting his own business of landscaping and mowing grass. I didn’t need his services, but his statement of, “If I could just have a chance, I can make this business work.” That was the key, “have a chance”, for him to take care of my 2 acres of yard. That was 4 years ago. He told me I am like a second mother to him; I told him he’s like a son to me. He often says, ‘Thanks, Mz. R (that’s what he calls me), for giving me a chance.”
Janis - August 30, 2017 3:35 pm
Mz. R…you are a jewel…then and now. One thing in particular that I learned as a teacher was the fact that children need “fences”; parameters that define how far they can go with a certain behavior or attitude. Enforcing these “fences” means you love him/her enough to expend the energy to be consistent and to hold him/her accountable. You love(d) that boy…then and now.
Trudy :) - August 30, 2017 3:45 pm
Thank you, Janis. I hear from some of my former students. They are in all walks of life from struggling to make ends meet to successful, wealthy business owners. I always believe(d) a teacher never knows where their influence will take hold, nor the impact of it.
Smiles and blessings to you.
Cathi Russell - August 30, 2017 2:31 pm
The weepy glees again! Thank you Sean for this ray of sunshine on an otherwise very gray day in Montgomery!
paula jones - August 30, 2017 2:42 pm
I love that phrase–the weepy glees. Thanks for giving me a new way to express myself.
paula jones - August 30, 2017 2:41 pm
Whether she called herself a Christain or not, Miss Linda understood more about what it means to follow Jesus than all the pretty-talking power-hungry preachers in the world. God thank you for the Miss Linda’s of this world.
Melodie - August 30, 2017 2:52 pm
Miss Linda was a Saint. Yes, the girl deserved a second chance, and glad she chose to do the right thing, and learned from her mistakes. I know someone like that, and praying, she, too, will lead a thankful, productive life, with the (third) chance given to her, by her daddy who loves her so, very much, and won’t give up on her.
I worked in Corrections, and some of that time, was with juveniles. You had hope for them all, but deep in your heart, knew, that unfortunately, not all of them would make it.
God Bless Miss Linda, and the downtrodden, girl.
Marty from Alabama - August 30, 2017 3:01 pm
There are still good people out there. It’s sad that their stories are buried under the trash that makes the news.
Janet Mary Lee - August 30, 2017 3:05 pm
Sharon - August 30, 2017 3:02 pm
Matthew 25:35-40 The least of these.
Janet Mary Lee - August 30, 2017 3:03 pm
The power of One!!!
Thank you, Sean.
Jack Quanstrum - August 30, 2017 3:06 pm
All I want to do is shout Hallelujah for Miss Linda, the girl and for you Sean for sharing the story of the Real life Good Samaritin! Shalom!
Donna Holifield - August 30, 2017 6:08 pm
Pamela McEachern - August 30, 2017 7:47 pm
God Bless Miss Linda, and this young lady, I am amazed how God puts Angels in our paths when we need them the most. I always pray for the knowledge to realize it when it is happening. I listen much closer to that little voice these days.
Connie - August 30, 2017 9:55 pm
All it takes is a chance and a will to change. God bless Ms Linda and the girl.
Alice - August 31, 2017 10:25 pm
What a heartwarming story!thank you God bless you
Brenda Elliott - September 1, 2017 12:59 pm
All she needed was a chance.
Carol Turner - September 4, 2017 3:07 pm
Absolutely a very caring and hopeful story