Bulging, large, child-like, wondering eyes peered out from behind the disheveled, uncleanly figure in torn, over-sized clothing, that sat passively on the stool, in the corner of the ice cream shop. Our order had been completed and we walked around looking for a place to sit and enjoy our coupon clipped treat. Grateful for simple moments such as this, we meandered out into the corridor plaza and “people watched” as diverse characters entered from the cold and into the warm welcoming eateries, mapped out destinations onto the metro rail, and scurried over to the casino where the majority’s destination called. We waited and saw that the few places to sit in the ice cream shop had been vacated, and made our way over to them.
There sat the grubby foul smelling figure hunched over the counter table lined up along the wall. The odor was strong, but I was compelled to sit next to her, even for a few moments, and peek at what she was huddled over and concentrated on, when I noticed that she was drawing. Her drawings were of music staffs, attempted clef notes on the ends of them, and a column of words fluting out toward the bottom of her paper, announcing “Holy Bible” with garbled, half-scribbled letters making out the words “Greetings” and “Christmas”. This, she had repeatedly written and drawn down her entire paper. Her hands, weathered, thick, calloused, carefully placed each line, every curve, for every attempted letter, on her paper. Clearly, this was her masterpiece, something that she dearly treasured. I could feel her Presence and was overcome with sensations of humility, grace, and an interconnectedness that stirred deeply in the belly of humanity, the same one we both shared. At that moment, I knew I could only eat if she too could partake.
I turned to my partner who was observing my face and quietly shared my desire and intention with him. His one word was, “Sure”. I turned toward her, politely interrupted, and remarked praises on her Christmas drawing. Her eyes beamed with pride. I asked her if I could get her a warm coffee, knowing that she would be upon the cold streets once again, soon. She half-looked into my eyes, uttered some sounds and mumbled slightly discernible words, “an ice cream…vanilla” with the charm of a little girl’s twinkling eyes. A coffee is what I thought could warm her up while I also remembered that our own thrifty treat had been a planned excursion. I returned to the counter, ordered a coffee, then added a cookie, and as it was being rung up, those eyes of hers flashed through my mind. The words came out, “How much more for one of those ice creams?” pointing to the “Gotta Have It” size, displayed behind the counter. The young man serving me looked up surprised, then looked over to the homeless woman sitting along the wall. He then shared the little he knew about their familiar visitor, how she frequented the shop, daily now, with the freezing temperatures having dropped, and it having become less tolerable to be outside. He smiled. “What flavor?” he asked. “Vanilla”, I said as I turned to see those glistening waiting eyes, accompanied by small hand gestures, and subtle movements that indicated she was very excited.
I walked over and gave her the treats, gently placing my hand upon her shoulder, transmitting the love I felt in my heart, and wishing her well. She smiled. I smiled back. I turned to my husband to see him smiling. He looked over to her delighting in the treat and his smile broadened as did mine. Somehow, this small act of seemingly not much consequence, made a distinct mark in all our lives, in that moment.
We drove home that night, with a fullness in our heart that invoked silence the whole way home; and arriving home we felt incredibly thankful for all our blessings. I felt immeasurable strength and courage to face all the unknowns of that time, and hush the ghosts of the past that tempted to haunt me. There had been a kind of crystal clarity, like the crisp winter starry night sky, that had cleared a path within me when I had looked into her eyes. For days after, and now one year later, that moment still lives and shines brightly. I believe it always will and that those eyes, how they blessed me, held the mystery of a great gift that transcends all barriers of time and space…All.
Months earlier, when the summer sun had warmed my skin as I had pedaled and glided by on a bike path, I had come across a captivating mural. The thought that sprung forth was the word “interconnectedness”. The idea to write upon that thought had been instilled in my mind. Days came and went, seasons passed, and I hadn’t written about it. Then, that night at the ice cream shop, what had transpired in those moments, and the residual affect afterwards, the mural came back to my mind. How it had all been interconnected impressed itself profoundly upon my heart and in my soul. Now, the story has been retold many times and those moments, seemingly simple and inconsequential, still share a blessing for all who are listening. Interconnectedness, it warms and feeds us all.