My lunch with a homeless woman

Melissa Jensen
3505 days ago.

This was originally posted in November of last year, but this being Christmas Eve I just wanted to send out a reminder to be thankful for what we have and cherish every moment we have.  Enjoy.

I’m socially awkward.  I don’t deal well with emotions or strangers or meeting new people, some assume upon meeting me that I am snobby or aloof, I just really don’t know what to say.  Today, I met a homeless woman and we talked for a long time.  I ended up sitting with her while I ate my lunch.

I sat at a corner table across from a booth, I didn’t want to sit in the middle of the place or have bitter people look at me because there was no where for them to sit and here I am all alone taking up a table for four (awkward).  My gaze around before staring at my food and working at not making eye contact led me to see the woman sitting across from me.  Alone in a booth she asked if it was still cold outside, I said it was and she proceeded to apologize profusely for disturbing me.  Well, I don’t want to make anyone feel like that plus there was something off about this woman (not mentally, just something in the picture didn’t fit for a downtown eatery at lunch time with all the suits and heels and dresses.)  As I looked I noticed a large bag sitting across from her, she was drinking water, had a empty bag from unsaid establishment on the table and her receipt prominently displayed.  “She doesn’t want to get kicked out into the cold” (this is my inner dialogue).

My brain continued, should I offer her something to eat, should I talk to her, damn how can I eat all this in front of someone who is hungry, why am I assuming she’s homeless, why am I assuming she’s hungry.  This went on until she looked at me, I didn’t know what to do so I smiled and said “it’s not too bad out there if you stay out of the wind and in the sun.”  We talked, she said the food was too expensive there, she told me she was homeless, she told me the story of how she got there like so many other stories, She asked me to join her.  I asked if she wanted anything.  “Oh no, I’m fine.”  I wondered if that was true.  I thought about offering her money, but I didn’t.  I thought about insisting on buying her food, but I didn’t.  She talked about her kids, she had a daughter the same age as me, but she’s no longer with us.  She talked about her ex-husband.

I ate every single bite of food on my plate, way too much.  She may have been too prideful to let me buy her lunch and I may have been too awkward to insist, but I’d be damned if I was going to throw away any part of my food in front of her.  Throughout our (well really my) lunch she probably apologized 100 more times for talking to me.  I felt bad, was it me making her feel that way.  So many times during her stories I just didn’t know what to say.

I left my cookie on the table and now after having left I wonder if that was insulting.  I wonder if I should have given her money, should I have bought her lunch, a cup of coffee.  She didn’t seem resentful she didn’t seem bitter, she didn’t ask me for anything but a weather report.

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Melissa Jensen

Melissa is a native of the Greater St. Louis region. She is addicted to anything Google, and cannot understand why motion activated paper towel dispensers never see her hands.

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