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"The Old Bag Lady"

By Vanessa Kristovich

A little old lady walked down the street. She was dressed in several layers of tattered, filthy clothing. Everything she owned was in a bag that she carried around with her or a shopping cart that she pushed.

She didn't have a place to sleep, except for a space on the ground here and there.

She had not eaten for several days.

She couldn't even remember when she last had a bath.

The public restrooms were closed, so she had to find a discrete place to relieve herself, and she didn't know where she would get a drink of water.

She was in pretty bad shape.

As she walked along, she saw something shiny on the sidewalk. She bent down to see what it was, and she became very excited. Someone had dropped two very shiny half dollars.

"Holy smoke!" she thought, "A whole dollar!"

What could she do with a dollar?

Eat, perhaps.

Maybe get something to drink.

Maybe she could even take the bus to the public office downtown where, hopefully, she could actually find someone to help her turn her life around.

She had too many choices!

But, then, it came to her.

Even though her life was bad, it could be worse. She thought about a young girl that had two small children living with her behind the dumpster right there on the corner of Eighth and Chestnut Streets. If she walked just a little further, she would probably see them.

She got an idea. She walked over to the hot dog vendor whose cart was just a few feet away. She looked at him with her most pleading eyes, held up the hand with the coins in it, and said, "Whatever this will buy."

Now, this particular hot dog vendor made it a practice to do at least one good deed every day. It wasn't difficult. There were so many homeless people this side of town that he could have easily given away everything he had if he wanted to. As it was, he helped one or two people daily by giving them food, and he was always ready to take them to a shelter if they wanted to go.

Today, he looked into the weary face of this poor, old woman and decided she would be his good deed for this day. Normally, $1.00 would only buy a cup of coffee. But today, he gave her three hot dogs and a large soda. Before he prepared the food for her, he gave her a card, which she put in her pocket. Then he handed her the food in exchange for the coins. She walked away with a smile on her face. The hot dog vendor put the coins in his special pocket. Later, he planned to drop them on the street when no one was looking.

A very rich man, well groomed and wearing an expensive black suit with 24 carat buttons, shook his head at the vendor.

"You know, Joe, you'll never get rich by giving the food away." He all but grimaced at the old woman's smell.

"There's no harm in helping the poor," Joe said.

"You mean in keeping them dependent. Really, she could find a job. But if they don't do it for themselves, why should we help them?"

Joe just shook his head. "What'll ya have?"

The old woman put her treasure in her basket. She took great care to place it so that nothing would spill. She then drove the basket to the alley where she saw the woman and her two children before. She found them huddled together behind the dumpster for warmth. They looked so pale and weak! She immediately took out the food and gave it to them.

"This is for you," she said.

The children sat up excitedly. Hungrily, they devoured the food. The young mother broke her hot dog in half. "You should have some of this," she said.

The old woman shook her head. "No, thank you. You need this more than me. You have young children to care for, but I am just an old woman alone."

"Thank you. If ever there is something I can do for you, don't hesitate to ask!"

"Do you pray?" the old woman asked. "I would consider it a kindness if you would remember me."

The young woman nodded her agreement. And she was as good as her word, for the prayers were already on her lips.

The old woman visited for about fifteen minutes or so, and then she wheeled her stuff back down the street. As she did, she noticed the rich man begin to cross the road. Just then, a large panel truck raced around the corner. The rich man did not see it, and he kept going. The old woman shouted to him and ran in his direction. But she was too frail from hunger to be able to reach him in time.

Rich man died immediately upon impact.

Old woman was sad. She wished she could have helped him.

Old woman stayed and did what she could. She answered the questions of the police. When they were finished with her, she gathered up her few belongings and was on her way. She still had to find a place to sleep for the night.

She reached in her pocket and pulled out the card that the hot dog vendor gave her.

It said:

"I know someone who will help you get off the street. Meet me at my cart by 7PM, or call 1-800-NEW-HOME."

She grinned. God would help her today, and she was going to help her little friends.

She gathered the little family, and they were waiting for Joe by the time he finished packing up his cart. They climbed on his truck with him and rode off to a better life.

Ironically, they pulled away at the same time that the coroner's van started out for the morgue.

Coincidence?

Copyright 2004 Vanessa Kristovich

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