Today I decided I not only needed a run, but a change of scenery. So I headed to the lakefront. I parked and headed towards the path. About a half a mile in, I noticed my shoe was untied. There was a bench nearby so I sat down to tie my shoe on one end. At the other end of the bench was a woman who looked to me to be homeless. Her head was down and she never looked up. She was picking at the seam of her shirt. I turned towards her as I tied my shoe and said, "Good morning! Beautiful day isn't it!" She looked up at me with such sad eyes and mumbled, "I guess"
I said, "Really?! The sun is shining and it is warm. Do you not like the warm weather?"
She said, "I love the sun and warm weather. I used to love to take my kids to the playground on days like today."
She asked me if I lived in the area. And I said in Chicago but not the lake area. And we got to chatting. My run would have to wait a bit.
Her name is Cassie. Her story is one I have to tell. She's only a year older than me. She had a well worn face and spirit looking more like 70 than her 51 years. . A mom of four kids. She got married and had kids at a really young age. Her husband became abusive shortly after they got married and she felt she could not leave.
She protected her kids and took the brunt of the abuse. Once the kids were old enough, they moved out heading into the military. Cassie said one night she had enough...got brave...and ran from her home. She never looked back. She's afraid to even communicate with her children for fear her husband will find her. She has not seen nor heard from her kids for over 5 years. She left with only what she could carry and has been homeless for the last fours years. She was with friends for a while but got scared so she has tried to 'disappear.'
We talked about life about love. We talked about abusive men. We talked about a mothers love for her children. I finally said, "I really need to get to running or I will never go...."
"You are kind. This is the best conversation I have had in a long while. Thanks for listening to me...."
My eyes welled with tears as I asked if I could give her a hug her and she said no.
"I'm not hugging a homeless person. I am hugging another mom."
We hugged and I headed off for the rest of my run. I cried for a while as I ran.
All I could think about was women like Cassie. How many Cassie's are there?
Mothers. Mothers who give up everything for their children. Mothers who do the best they can and it's still not good enough. Mothers that lose sleep. Mothers that are tired. Mothers that fight for their kids. Mothers who let their kids go. Mothers who let their kids make mistakes. Mothers who cry tears of joy, anguish and heartache. Mothers who hold on too tight. Mothers who don't hold on at all. Mothers who let go. Mothers who love until it hurts. All in secret.
I thought to myself, there by the grace of God go I.
Please pray for Cassie and women like her.
I am only posting a photo of our bench that I took on my return trip. I want to respect Cassie's privacy and safety.