I told you before that my mom worked in a donut shop when I was a kid. I did a lot of my growing up sleeping on flour sacks in the back of the shop. It’s one of my best childhood memories. Owning that donut shop was what I had planned on- but it was closed down and the building has been turned into several different businesses. Currently it is painted a putrid lime green and in the windows there are tires and shiny rims. Still, whenever I pass this building I immediately think back to the donut shop. I can see the “regulars,” smell the fresh coffee and taste the powdered sugar with every breath I take. Oh how I loved that donut shop. These memories have been branded deep inside of me. More than anything else, it’s how my momma connected to the customers. Everyone loved her. She had a way (still does) to make everyone feel like her best friend. I’m pretty sure some of these customers came in just to see her; donuts and coffee were just a bonus.
I also remember the color of the paper that lined the racks. At different times of the day the paper under the donuts would change to show they were fresh. Like in the wee hours of the morning it might have been yellow, late morning maybe pink and in the afternoon, white. Customers knew how old the donuts were this way. Anyway… At the end of the paper change the “old” donuts were thrown away. My momma decided to place them in a clean garbage bag and set them outside the back door for the homeless folks. She didn’t think I saw this, but I did. I didn’t get it all.
Yesterday morning I had to run some errands and while making a quick stop at Walmart for a bag of catfood, Lelly called to asked me if I could get her some donuts. While I was talking to her while walking through the parking lot I noticed a homeless woman sitting with her sleeping bag up against the wall near the pop machines. I’d seen her a few times before but like so many, I walked past. It wasn’t my problem.
Inside Walmart I packed the 15lbs. of catfood on my hip like a lumpy toddler and the next aisle over I reached for a box of assorted donuts, tucking them between me and the catfood. Then I reached for another. Two aisles over I grabbed a single serving bottle of whole milk and preceded to the check-out. I asked the cashier to place the milk and one box of donuts in a bag by themselves, and she did. I took the bag to the homeless woman and when I handed to her, I saw her face for the first time. She wasn’t what I expected. From a distance she looked- homeless ….but when I took the time to get closer, she looked human. I handed her the little gray plastic sack and wished her a, “Merry Christmas,” then I walked away. The sensation that filled my chest was that of the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes.
I debated on whether to share this story because I don’t think people should talk about what they do for others. Truth is, I’ve always been bitter towards homeless people. I’d turn my head and ignore them as I walked past. I mean, it’s their fault they were in the situation they were in, not mine and …come on now, they could get a job..they were choosing this lifestyle. They want handouts. Right!!??? This is what I usually think. I’m not proud of my thought process, I’m just being honest. Those people with signs asking for food- erk me. I’d see them in one area of town and later the same day is see them again, in another part of town. They made me bitter because they only wanted money not work, not food.
So I bought donuts. I really don’t know why I did it but after doing so I debated whether to tell anyone about it because I didn’t want people to think that I was looking for pats on the back. You know? That’s not what this post is about. This post is about doing more than handing someone a donut, it’s about serving another person. It’s about being human in a world knee deep with shit. This woman wasn’t panhandling; she didn’t have a sign– for the most part she was invisible, but I saw her. I really saw her. I hope one day the homeless woman finds herself in different circumstances and I also hope that she knows that it wasn’t me serving her, it was her serving me and it all started with my love for donuts.
**thank you momma for loving people the way you do. I saw you.