Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
PREFACE: If there was anything my mom was known for, it was her love for those less fortunate. She often put together specific care packages, lunches, and goodies for some of her favorite homeless people she passed on a daily basis.
I think back to one specific man, James. She passed him in Richmond week after week after week during her lunch-time walks. Saying hello each time, being 'welcomed' with his grunts and dismissal. It didn't stop her. She continued to say hi to him, eventually asking his name, and after nearly a year - he replied angrily, "My name is James." was all he said.
She would form a friendship with him, and he would eventually open up to her. She loved bringing him a lunch or a package of new socks, a Christmas gift, or just a cup of coffee. This would continue weekly if not daily, until September 2013, just before she had surgery.
At her memorial service a month later, a co-worker from Bay Area Rescue Mission would tell us she sought out to find James, and she told him of my mom's passing. He assured her he would see my mom in Heaven one day.
This love and passion for the homeless naturally filtered down to her children, and after two weeks of seeing the same homeless man on my way into work/school drop off, I decided this morning... should I see him again, I would bring him a coffee. It's what my mom would have done.
I felt apprehension. I know my mom was good at this, she walked the scariest streets of downtown Richmond, 6th street SF, bad parts of Oakland - without a worry. I am not so brave. I couldn't shake however, the urgency to bring a coffee to this hooded, person I saw wrapped in a tarp for the past few weeks.
He sat in between the rows of grape vines, just off the main road. A hood over his head, a tarp as a blanket, I saw him at the minimum 4 times per day in my routine drop off/pick up schedule. Even in a recent rain storm, there he sat.
So today, the urging of my heart took me there. A venti coffee in hand, I parked the car just before him. Quinn watched from behind me as I slipped out of the car.
I had no idea what lay before me. Was this a man, or a woman? Old or young? When a face emerged, I was entranced by the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. Clear as the sky, blue as the Pacific.
"Hi there, you... look... cold. I thought I'd bring you something to warm you." I said.
"For, me? This is, for, me?"
"But, you don't want this coffee?" he asked. His skin was etched in dirt, by my guess he was in his late 60s and had quite a story of his own.
I shook my head, "no, no I have my own coffee, this is for you. Please, take it." and I passed it onto him.
He reached out an aged hand and wrapped his fingers around the cup. I smiled, relieved.
"Hey, have a good day, okay?" I said and turned towards the car.
When I got in, he slowly made his way over to my window.
"Are you, sure, you don't want this coffee?" he asked me, his words liquid and slow.
"I am, really. Please, enjoy it." I spoke as I lifted my own coffee from the cup holder.
"Well, then please, let me pay you for it."
I turned my head sharply. He? Pay, for this?
"Oh, no no no! No please. It is a gift. From me to you. Get warm, enjoy the coffee. Please." I was dumbfounded. And frankly, in shock.
Him? Pay ME for the coffee?
Out of his jacket he pulled a $20 bill.
I waved my hand. "No, no way. No thank you."
He insisted and put the money in my hand.
"What is your name?" I asked.
"Thompson." he replied, and asked mine.
"Thompson, I would much rather you have this money, really, please."
He looked at me and held his hand over his heart, with the most sincerity he replied, "You have a family to care for. I have ALL I will ever need. I am taken care of. I am. This is yours."
And with that, he walked around the car and returned to his tarp, sipping the coffee I had brought him.
As I drove away, speechless, Quinn said to me, "Mama, Thompson has no home. We got him a coffee! We make him happy!"
And over and over and over throughout the day she asked me, "Mama, tell me the story of Thompson, please?"
Baffled I am. Humbled. Touched.
I don't know Thompson's story. I have no idea the events that led him to the vineyard down the street. I don't know much of anything, I am still processing the situation myself.
I do know that there was a higher power that orchestrated my morning. I was led to stop by there today, and in turn I received a gift greater than I could have imagined, greater than the monetary value. I was able to share with my tiny young daughter the joy in giving, just as her Nana would have loved to instil in her, herself.
I couldn't help but wonder, was I entertaining an angel? Did my mom have her hand in this? Either way I have been wracking my brain as to how I can use this $20 to continue to help others.
In tiny ways I find myself feeling hugs from my mom. In the whispers of the evening wind, in the scent of orange blossoms, and in the words of a homeless man named Thompson.