As Bethany and I approached the girl with the sign, we saw her more clearly. She saw (is) a small, young woman (probably in her early twenties) with brown curly hair, pulled back in a ponytail, very thin. We slowly walked up to her and introduced ourselves and shook her hand. Her name is Janeen. I can't get her out of my heart. Not that I'm trying . . . I don't want to forget her.
I don't remember the exact words of our conversation or the order of what all was said, but roughly, it went like this.
"Wow, Janeen. You are so brave. It takes a lot of guts to hold that sign out there."
"Yeah, I'm just doing what I have to. I bet you girls would do the same thing.
I'm just trying to get $10. Just being honest, guys, I'm an alcoholic, and I just need to get a beer tonight or else in the morning, I'll get shakes. And I need some tobacco too. Just to be honest here."
"I bet it's hard, Janeen."
"Yeah. I have a blood clot in my leg, and so my shoes are pretty uncomfortable."
"Oh goodness, lady! Is there something you can do for it? Put ice on it or anything?"
"Not really. Ice doesn't really work with a blood clot."
"Ah, I'm sorry. Janeen, do you have any family around? How long have you been in Portland?"
"I've been here about three months. Nope. I really don't have a home or any friends or family, just my homeless friends. It gets lonely."
"I bet. Where do you stay at night, Janeen?"
"Under the bridge. Thankfully, the weather hasn't been too bad lately. Hasn't rained, but when it does, your sleeping back gets so wet. And you don't know until the morning when it's soaked."
And I don't know exactly what built up to this. I call it Jesus moving us. He knows the right words to break us enough to love us, but we told her:
"Janeen, you are so valuable. You really are."
And her beautiful brown eyes filled.
"Can I give you a hug?"
And I held her for just awhile as she cried. Oh what world is this that people don't understand how valuable and loved they are by God? What world is this?
"Thank you so much," and her tears kept falling.
And a lady came by and gave her a few dollars, and asked her what was wrong, and she said that she was nervous.
"I've just never had someone care."
"Oh Janeen, we love Jesus, and we believe that He loves you so much, even when it doesn't feel like it, and it's okay to say that."
And the tears fell and fell, and my tears fell too. This blog doesn't come close to the power of that moment. I don't know if I've ever had someone respond so in such away to the love of Jesus.
I asked her where she normally stayed during the day, and she said that she was normally either right there or by Safeway, where there's a lot of people.
"Janeen, we're busy college students, and I can't promise you anything, but I really, really hope I can come back and see you sometime!"
We held her again. We left.
Tears in my eyes. Tears still in hers.
And Bethany and I walked off and begged God to love on her, to take care of her. We asked that He'd send others to love her, that He'd bring us back if we could.
And we left. But she never left from my heart. She was and is so real, such a person. I am guilty of stereotyping the homeless as those who have bizarre stories and who just need cash for their guilty pleasures. But no. These people are real. They know what it means to feel and to hurt. They know what it feels like to be treated like DIRT. They are real people with Mama's and Daddy's, who maybe had first days in first grade and played on the monkey bars at recess. Or maybe their Mama's and Daddy's weren't there. Maybe they've never had a real home cook meal or have never been given a big hug before going off to school. Maybe they had no friends in elementary school. I call Janeen my friend, and I hope beyond all hope that I see her again. I really, really do. But that hope leads me into another part of this story . . .
To Be Continued