She was holding a pillow and waiting at the bus stop. I guessed she was maybe fifteen?
It turns out she was eighteen, but only just. She’d left home a few weeks ago – soon after her last birthday when her mother got mad and tried her hurt her. “My mamma said it’s not child abuse when you’re eighteen” she said. And so she moved to Austin.
She was on her way home from dialysis when I saw her. I rolled down the window and asked her if she needed a ride? And like no good teenage-girl ever should, she smiled wide and jumped right in.
Who is your neighbor?
Three times a week – every week – K takes the public bus home from dialysis. She shows me the hard plastic port wedged under the skin in her tiny arm and tells me about the kidney transplant she had when she was eight. “It didn’t work” she says looking straight ahead. “When I got home from the hospital I didn’t get the medicine I needed, so now I need another one.”
She gets herself up well before dawn to be in the dialysis chair by 6:30am. At ten she is released from the machine to make her way back to the bus-stop. Each bus fare costs $2. She really hopes she can find a job that will allow her to work around her treatment, and one that won’t ask for any form of ID, as she doesn’t have any.
Who is lying in the road?
A week after our first meeting, I will pick K up at a Burger King on the sketchy side of town. She’ll be watching from the corner window, sipping on the small orange Fanta the store manager offered her while she waited for me to come.
“I’m sorry.” she’ll say as I hug her. “I had to get off because a man on the bus wouldn’t leave me alone. I didn’t have $2 and so I started to walk home, but I got so tired.”
She had walked four miles along the interstate in the wrong direction.
Who is your daughter?
Dialysis makes her weak. She hopes there’s something to eat back at the apartment, but doubts it. This is a problem, because she also has Lupus. It’s crucial for anyone with Lupus to have excellent nutrition, plenty of rest, and as little stress as possible. I know this. She just always knows that she’s hungry and tired.
Who is your sister?
Wendy’s restaurant is her happy place. This does not require much investigative work as she chirps: “There’s a Wendy’s!” each time we pass one by.
She patiently scrapes all the lettuce and tomatoes from her burger onto the orange tray. She can’t remember ever eating a vegetable, and the one time she tried fruit (strawberries) she threw up violently. She has vowed never to eat another fruit as long as she lives. “They make me so SICK!” she says. She carefully wraps up half the burger and all her fries to take home.
She doesn’t know her dad, and her two older step-brothers have been in and out of jail. When she was diagnosed with Lupus at age seven, her live-in aunt earmarked K’s monthly Medicaid check for things other than medical care; things like entertaining lots of different men.
Even if only half of this is true, it’s still heartbreaking.
When K turned eighteen she realized she now had legal control of her Medicaid assistance. She informed her mother and aunt that she would use the money to get consistent and proper medical treatment. They informed her she was no longer welcome in their home. They informed her by choking her.
Who is your child?
“Can I pray with you?” I said the first time I dropped her off at her apartment.
Oh God, what do I say?
“Heavenly Father. Thank you for letting me meet K today. You are so good to let us know each other. Thank you for introducing me to someone you love so much; someone who is precious and valuable and beautiful to you. Thank you for Wendy’s! And for the chance to meet a new friend and neighbor. Be with K until we meet again. Protect her tired body and anxious heart. Be very near to her in the coming days, because I know that you love her with an everlasting love. Amen.”
“Love them as yourself. For you also were slaves and foreigners. You were strangers and aliens. For I am the LORD your God who rescued you from bondage.” – God speaking to his people in the well-loved and oft-quoted book of Levicticus –
Peace to you, until we meet again.
PS. This is part one of a two or three-part story. Stay tuned…
10 responses to Becoming Visible
Wow! True story?
precious – thanks for sharing.
I just read your latest post and while I read them all and am blessed by your generous sharing and wisdom, this is the first response.
The Invisible Becoming Visible. I’ve always reached out to the hurting and vulnerable. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe I relate. Even though I grew up upper middle class – even went to a private high school – my family, in general, had fun placing me outside love. Two of my sisters reached out to me but the other two and my brother found it more convenient to push and prod and be cruel whenever the whim struck. An over bearing mother and absent father didn’t help stabilize things at all. I never fit in, never felt comfortable or wanted in my own skin, let alone my own home. I never wanted for material things and was told I was fortunate but as a result of all the emotional garbage, at 45 yrs old, am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Emotional abuse leaves a person confused and paralyzed. It’s normal to feel hurt and worthless all the time. Any time things start to get different (better?) it’s new territory and my brain goes back to 12 years old. It’s both unavoidable and ridiculous. But nobody needs to know that because nobody knows how to handle it… including me. So I just try to move on the best I know how.
I married an amazing woman, had two great kids; lost three before or at birth. We started doing well, financially, but that only lasted a year before the recession hit me hard. It sucked but it was like I was expecting it. Why would I have a life that went even close to what was planned or desired. That would be so un-normal. My normal was different.
Once, as a college student working part-time for UPS at night, about to give up on the third school I was attending, I found myself in the city on my way to the aquarium where I was taking marine bio classes and helping run the place, I’d stop first and buy subs for the homeless guys sitting under an inner city over pass. That’s what I did. I didn’t know what their stories were and and didn’t do it for any reason other than I knew they were hungry. I wasn’t even saved at the time and can’t say that I even knew Christ. It was just what they needed and even though I didn’t have alot, I had enough for 5 sandwiches and drinks, so,why not. One day I carpooled with a fellow student and she was stunned at what I was doing. I was stunned that she was stunned but didn’t say anything. She was from a well to to family and always had more than enough but it never occurred to her to buy a sandwich for someone who couldn’t get one for themselves. Interesting that this day, when I bought the sandwiches the store owner asked me who I was buying them for. Months of getting 5 sandwiches three days a week from this guy and he asks me now? I told him who they were for and got yelled at for enabling the vagrants. He refused to sell me the sandwiches. WHAT?!?! Whatever. It was par for the course. Pretty normal for me. Out of time before class, I had to leave the guys without a meal that night. The girl I was with asked me if I should ever have even been buying sandwiches like that. I asked her why she didn’t. Privileged girl from a rich family having never missed a meal. I challenged her to give them her own lunch. She taunted me to give them my own. I had to let her know that the guy wouldn’t sell me one so I guess I wasn’t eating that night either. We went to class and that girl never carpooled with me again. I don’t know. maybe I rocked her status quo. Everyone has one. Even K.
Peoples’ normal runs the gamut of ok to not ok. They come to expect a pattern after a while… whatever pattern their normal is. K’s life is normal for her. Even though it blows you away. Just as those guys were probably expecting me to never come back with a sandwich, and the night I didn’t, they didn’t even flinch. K is probably expecting you to leave her and find her of no value when it suits you. That’s her normal.
Your blog challenges normal. It’s one of the reasons I love it so much. I wish you blessings and wisdom in your efforts with K. I pray Jesus reaches her and teaches her a new normal. How wonderful would it be if He blessed you by letting you be a part of that. And I pray that she lets it all happen the way He would have it.
Date: Mon, 2 Nov 2015 17:40:17 +0000 To: email@example.com
Brian. Thank for the note! Can I tell you how much I love this encouragement: ” I pray Jesus reaches her and teaches her a new normal.” That is the exact thing I would ask anyone to pray for her … and for me, too. Peace be with you, and all of yours. Kim
I too have bought food for people, given money when I had none to give and missed opportunities to help others. To me I can not fathom the norm of people not understanding that there are people in need and just 1 small act of kindness can change a life or bad circumstance. I can not for the life of me understand the thought of no one helps me so why should I help anyone. My heart literally aches at the way the “norm” is today and it scares me! I am 37 and pregnant with my miracle baby and terrified to bring him into this world. Thank you for your goodness.
Michele, congratulations! What joy awaits you! Don’t be terrified. This little one will grow up to see and hear and care for others because he will share the compassion of his mamma! Peace to you and yours. Kim.
After 2 days of pondering this post I realize that I am just almost speechless. My mother’s heart just aches. I want to rage against K’s mother, but…
Anyway. Thank you for being a light. Thank you for reminding all of us to get out of our own heads, stereotypes, prejudices and fears to step out. Please God to continue to show favor to K with more of His love, so evidently displayed by you, Kim. XO
I have worked in social services for the past 14 years. I have heard and seen so much heartache, abuse, and hurt. It never stops being heart wrenching and disturbing. I pray everyday for those I have come in contact with. Hearing stories like this one, breaks my heart, but also it shows such love! K is so couragous! She is an inspiration and a testimony to God’s Love.Thank you for sharing.