I have been busy, very busy, lately. Little sleep, lots of labor, facing deadlines. Little time for chitchat and such, but reminding myself that I have to make time for important things like walking my dog, Hunny, listening to my child’s stories, etc. When we are busy like that, it is easy to become hyper-focused and forget that we are here for a purpose, and that purpose is not just to ourselves. Today, I had a reminder of that and I am thankful for it.
I had just finished strolling with Hunny. We had gone to the beach and I had allowed her a little time to swim, knowing that I’d given her short shrift over the past couple days. While I worked all night Sunday and was away from home, my daughter said our pup barked incessantly with that short yelp she does when she is unhappy. I felt guilty, I admit. So she swam a bit and we were almost home when I spied a woman sitting on the curb near my building. “Good morning!” I said. She smiled. Something about that smile. I hadn’t seen her before, an older woman (well actually, probably about my age). I walked a little closer on my way to my building. She looked at me with a tad bit of anxiety, so I stopped and asked, “Can I help you with something?”
She whipped out her phone and showed it to me. “Please, here? Help me find?” She spoke only rudimentary English, if even that. I looked at her phone. There was a man’s name and an address, but not to any of the buildings in my complex. And the last part of the street address wasn’t correct. There is no “Street” here; there is “Circle” and “Place” and “Road,” but no “Street.” This woman had no idea where she was. A quick search on Google had me worried that she had picked the wrong town entirely.
I searched a little more and decided that no, she was in the right place, almost. I found the number of the building she was supposed to go to. I pointed in the direction she needed to go but then I thought, she doesn’t speak any English, she looks very confused and anxious…she needs someone to help her. I pointed to myself and said, “I’ll go with you.”
The woman thanked me over and over. As we were walking (I was still dragging Hunny, as she is one who likes to mosey more than walk these days), the woman said, “I walk 2 hours here.” Wow! It was hot already and the asphalt just made things worse. “I Filipino.” I chitchatted and told her that many of my students are Filipino, but she didn’t understand. I think just speaking pleasantly and walking beside her was relieving though. She looked better.
After a little searching, we found the general place we were supposed to be. The area is a warren of ramshackle warehouses and run-down shops. I wondered what she could have to do here. I knew that some people lived in second floor rooms of some places, but none that we asked at were the right location. Just then, she remembered a number and said, “Please, you call?”
I did call. It was the number to a caseworker, Yes, we were in the right spot, and we needed to find a certain shop and search for a man named Peter. That was all the information the caseworker had, apparently.
We went to the shop. It was closed. The guys working in a warehouse next door only knew of a man named Dave, and they hadn’t seen him yet this morning. I thought about it – I remembered this run-down second-hand furniture store had another entrance where it stores stuff in the back. I motioned to the woman and said, “Come with me. We will check there.”
I still had Hunny. The woman was a little nervous. It is a crappy looking area, but I pass through it frequently. We were fine.
We walked a bit and got to the back of the warehouse. We found a woman sitting in the pile and I asked if she knew anyone named Peter. “Oh, he lives up there,” and she pointed to a window on the second floor. “Just go through there and stay to the left, up the stair.”
She called up, “Hey Peter! Pete! Somebody here for you!” A guy came to the window but did not show his face. “Okay, just come up.”
There was no real door there; it was just an opening. Inside was dark and dirty, with junk everywhere. There was a small, dark hall and then light coming from an angle above, so I figured there had to be the staircase. The woman hung back a little. I had Hunny, so I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll go with you.” Hunny and I went first. As we turned the corner to find the stairs, I could see that the top floor looked more like a home. It was lighter and less cluttered. The woman looked at me and said, “Okay, I fine. Thank you very much!”
Hunny and I walked down and out the door. At that same moment, a truck pulled up and a woman got out. “Are you the one I talked to on the phone?” I said yes. “Thank you so much for your help. I’m the caseworker. I can help from here.” Apparently, the woman who I was helping is part of a home care program, and this was her first time coming to this spot. Perhaps the caseworker had given her better directions but, not speaking English, the woman just did not understand. Who knows. All I know is that we found the space, she was relieved, and Hunny had a little adventure.
30 minutes of my time, and it’s made things into a good day. It was an unexpected and unsought for moment, but helping someone was totally worth it. : )