This past weekend was my annual 48-hour solo retreat. It was glorious—I had the best time doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted for two days straight. I retreated at home while my husband took the kids camping. I picked up take-out food, went shopping, read, watched my favorite shows, did projects around the house, and took time to plan for the future of this website. I didn't hang out with a single other person the entire time, but I did see someone that I haven't been able to shake from my mind.
I had just popped into a store at Santana Row, a high-end outdoor shopping mall. As I was walking back to my car, I looked up from the sidewalk and there she was: a stunning Indian woman wrapped in a sari, cradling a newborn, and holding a cardboard sign. I was shocked to see her. They have security guards who keep away the down-and-out, but there she was: beautiful & begging on glamorous Santana Row. I was so affected that I didn't even read the words on her sign; my eyes were all on her. Then I looked down and kept walking.
As I walked on, my heart pounded: What should I do for this woman? As I drove away, my mind raced: Should I turn around? But I did nothing. It's hard to share this story. I'm ashamed. There is no excuse for my behavior. I was flying solo without a care in the world, until I saw her—and now I can't stop thinking about her.
I wish I'd stopped. I wish I'd asked her name. I wish I'd talked with her. I wish I'd offered to buy her a meal, sit down with her, hold her baby. But, I was uncomfortable and I did nothing.
I've thought often about going back to see if she's there. I asked my friend, who works at the store across from where the woman was standing, if she'd ever seen her; my friend said she'd never seen a beggar at Santana Row. The hard truth is I can't change what I didn't do. But I can do this: I can resolve to keep my eyes open to see—to see opportunities to enter into the brokenness of this world, and take action when opportunities arise.
Brokenness is everywhere—even Santana Row—and it doesn't help anyone, ourselves or others, when we ignore it. I so badly want the courage to do unto others as I would have them do unto me if I were the woman begging on a street corner.