Eh, Eh--Can't say that title didn't get your attention!
There are some things that just happen. They are so organic, and so unplanned. These are the things of life. Situations that literally just fall into your hands. (Man, doesn't this just sum up my last six weeks ha) It's how I met Jared, it's how I met Matt, and today, it's how I met Marta.
This story is quite simple. I rushed out of work today remembering that I had to get to my blood drive appointment by 5:15. Sure enough I rolled in at 5:14, parked my car,and grabbed my purse, which bumped into my Dutch Bros cup, sending melted-ice-once-red bull-water flying. A little perturbed I grabbed my cup and a to-go bag from Big Town, and marched towards the back of the building to the dumpster. And there she was, dressed in a brown cloth, her hair nappy and braided. She was startled when she saw me, but I struck up a conversation with her as if I had known her for years. "Hey man, how are you today? Aren't you loving this weather! My name is Melissa." It was that easy.
Her name was Marta. She was gorgeous, she appeared to be from a Latino decent, but I can't honestly say that I cared enough to ask. She was young, when I asked her her age, she shrugged and answered "28? 29? I don't know", and I loved the fact that it wasn't a big deal to her. Marta and I literally sat in the back alley of the Red Cross and talked for at least an hour [side note: Yes, I did make a commitment to the Red Cross for a blood donation, so I ran inside....late....and asked if I could reschedule for tomorrow. Of course, they said yes. I thanked them and ran back out behind the building to pick up our conversation where we left off]. We talked about everything. But here was the beautiful thing about it--I never asked why she was on the streets, dressed in a sheet, and chillin' next to a dumpster. That wasn't what I cared about, I cared about her story, and how she defined herself; here is the crazy thing, when she was telling me her story, she never brought up why she was on the streets either.
I feel that society forgets that those who live on the streets are people with stories, beliefs, ideas, passions, etc. For some reason they just get scoffed at, and in turn, people love to create their story for them. "Oh she's a drug addict", or "oh her parents threw her out". Uhm...Did they tell you that? No? Oh okay--Then don't stereotype. "Homeless" to me is not a turn off, in fact, its quite the contrary. Why? Because homeless people often have outstanding stories. [other side note: I recognize that maybe these stories that she told me are false. I don't mind. If this is the story that she wanted to tell me, then it must be a story that she wanted me to hear. I wasn't there to judge Marta, I was there to learn from her.] Homeless people such as Marta live outside of society, therefore they get don't really get wrapped up in the conformity nonsense that the rest of us do. So jealous.
Nevertheless, Marta told me the story of her childhood on the Oregon coast. Her sisters raised her, and they always had; she never met her parents. She has a daughter, who's name I can not remember for the life of me. Her daughter was not with her during our conversation, she didn't mention where she was, so I didn't either. Her face lit up when she told me about her daughters most recent third birthday. She told me about how they went to the park and played in the fountain, and how her daughter laughed, and laughed that day. You could see Martas eyes get whiter and her smile get wider. She didn't need to tell me that her daughter was her life, it was clear.
Marta and I yakked at each other as if we were old high school friends just catching up, but the time came for me to leave. Marta is my size, maybe a bit wider in the hips from child birth, but over all the same stature, and here she was in a sheet. I literally asked her if she would take my clothes and wear them. She turned red in the face and shook her head no. I made some comment about how "I knew it wasn't the cutest outfit, and I would have planned ahead had I known better" and Marta's eyes filled with tears. She looked at me, and I will never forget what she said, but she said "Melissa, why are you being so nice to me?" The question totally confused me and threw me off guard. I said "Marta. I like you, and I want you to have my clothes. It's a gift, I will be fine." She looked around, nervous for who would see the clothing exchange, while silently nodding her head in agreement.
And ladies and gents, as I stood there in my boy short underwear, sports bra, and dress flats, looking back at Marta who was totally rocking my clothes, I too began to cry. We didn't say much after that. She hugged me, kissed my head, asked me if she looked alright while she pulled self consciously her new clothes [which fit her great by the way!], and slowly folded up her sheet. I smiled at her, walked proudly to my car in my underwear mind you, jumped in, and hit the road for home. And man, it felt so surreal. But then I would look down at my naked legs and smile cause they totally proved that that last 2 hours had in fact happened.
Most people never get to really give someone the clothes off their backs. It is more or less a figure of speech. But for me, it was exactly what I did. Meeting Marta was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I feel that this post doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how uplifting and incredible the experience was. I hope to see Marta again someday, maybe even meet her daughter, but for now, I will be content just knowing that we both impacted each others' lives for the better.
Marta, you rock.