The Woman With the Sign

This morning I woke up in a bad mood. I dragged myself out of bed, then crawled back in again. I did this several times, then forced myself to get up and out of the house.

I needed coffee, as I can’t seem to function or think without it. I also needed a few other food items. I headed over to our local grocery store, the Ashland Co-op, and was shocked silly to find a vacant parking spot.

As I got out of my car, I noticed a blond woman, about my age, and my build, with a sign stating that she had cancer and needed any kind of help people were willing to give. I squinted my eyes skeptically and frowned, as I walked past her.

It’s sad to me that it’s in my nature to doubt the authenticity of people asking for money. As I perused the grocery store aisles, I could not stop thinking of her. What would I do if I had no money from my family in addition to my chronic health issues?

After collecting everything I needed at the Co-op, I waited grouchily in the 10 items or less line. I’d run into the guy at the register before, who seems to have a perpetually annoyed look on his face. Something about him rubs me the wrong way.

I gave him cash, which I normally don’t seem to carry with me. He gave me my $3.66 in change, and I decided to give the 66 cents to the woman with the sign, in front of the store. I knew it wasn’t much, but figured if she was misrepresenting herself as someone with cancer, I wouldn’t be hoodwinked, that way.

I walked up to her, and handed her the change. She appeared to be genuinely grateful for it, and thanked me. That softened me a bit. I started walking away, and she spoke to me.

“I wanted to tell you my name,” she said. “It’s Wendy.”Well, that was very weird. I told her that my name is Wendy, too, and she said that something compelled her to tell me this.

I walked up to her again, and she told me the name of the kind of cancer that she has. I noticed that she had very kind eyes, and that she looked very tired.

I got back into my car, and decided that I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I pulled out a bag of snacks that I’d bought, and gave them to her. I held her hands in my hands, and really looked at her closely.

The funny thing is that I felt like giving that change to Wendy, and interacting with her for the few moments I did, made my day. I felt like she had given me a great gift, and had opened my heart in the process.

My brother Matthew, who died 29 years ago, at the age of 16, said it well, and said it often, “Don’t judge people based on how they look.”

He was only a kid, but he knew his stuff, and I am constantly reminded of him.


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