There is a homeless lady who often sits on the sidewalk in the local strip mall, leaning against the wall outside a store. She wears a tattered jacket, always, and sometimes has a crumpled can of iced tea next to her. And always, she is staring blankly down in front of her, not looking at anybody or anything.
It's starting to get cold outside at night now, and it was cold when I walked alone past her today. I was looking forward to getting my shopping done and heading back to the warmth of home, back to my family. I teetered and tottered and weaved a little before walking back to her and saying "Hi."
She looked up at me immediately with a smile, and said, "Hi." This was surprising because she seldom had any expression on her face. But now her eyes were bright, with her smile putting wrinkles around them. I quickly told her that I was heading to the grocery store and asked if I could get her something.
The smile went away just as immediately, and she said, "No.". Her eyes were back looking nowhere again. I was embarrassed, and I was afraid that I had embarrassed her. It was painful to see her sitting like that on the sidewalk, and I did not want to feel guilty while driving back home in my heated car, with bags of groceries in the trunk. I was selfish, because though I wanted to help her, it was really me that I was trying to cheer up, because what would a sandwich and a drink do for her? She would still be out there in the cold, alone.
I walked away from her quickly. Not every day has a feel-good ending.