by Mickey Z. / March 10th, 2023
I’ve written about B before. She’s a homeless woman I knew through my project. But here’s a little reminder of her backstory:
B lost both her legs in a subway accident. When I met her, she was living in a medical homeless shelter and panhandling daily in a wheelchair. B has four kids who, for a while, were living with her ex. It was not a good scenario. Very long story short: The State eventually took the kids away from him and temporarily placed them with B’s mother.
As I got to know B, I genuinely cared for her as a friend. We both looked forward to chatting whenever I’d bring packages full of supplies geared to fit her specific needs. I bore witness to B’s journey and encouraged her as she dealt with mean-spirited passers-by and with a mountain of obstacles, e.g. housing, child services, medical bureaucracy, lawyers, etc.
There’s one story about her I haven’t yet shared, so here goes…
One day, I found B in tears. Right before I arrived, she had to chase off a man who tried to steal her money cup. Then another man walked past and berated her — demanding that she should “get a job.”
As I did my best to console her, B told me she was missing her Dad.
Quick story: Before her accident, she lived in a house with her kids and extended family — including her Dad. B would be cooking in the kitchen and hear him enter because his steps made a very distinct sound when he entered (something to do with the design of the floor, I think). He’d often hug her and remind her that he was proud of how she looked out for everyone.
After her Dad died, she recalled being in the kitchen — cooking a family meal with tears streaming down her face. Suddenly, she heard a familiar sound. Her Dad, she believed, had just “entered” the kitchen. B told me that she experienced a hug.
That day when I found her crying in her panhandling spot, she wished so badly she could feel her Dad’s hug again.
As she’s telling me this sad tale, a young man approaches seemingly out of nowhere. White guy, slim, maybe mid-20s — totally underdressed for the cold weather. As he walked over to B, I scoped him out.
He was not wearing a jacket, wore sandals but no socks, and seemed to be empty-handed. What I mean is that no one walks down a Manhattan street without some combination of keys, wallet, and phone on them. He had none of these items and the pockets of his lightweight sweatpants showed no sign of holding anything.
While I was doing this protective/detective work, the young man was asking B if he could pray with her. She looked over at me and then said “yes” to the stranger. He reached out to take her hand as I warily watched. He picked up on my skepticism and smiled — extending his other hand to me. Suddenly, I reluctantly found myself in a prayer circle.
The young man did not recite a formal prayer. Rather, he freestyled about [wait for it] B’s father. I don’t recall the exact words but it was something like, “I sense an older man, your father maybe. He’s looking out for you. Things look bad now but he wants you to know he’s watching and a big change is coming.”
My jaw dropped and B sobbed.
After sharing a few more words, the young man said to B, “I hope that helped.” He thanked us for indulging him, turned, and basically vanished into the midday crowd.
B and I stared at each other for quite some time.
When I eventually pointed out all the odd things I had noticed about the young man, B smiled and cried at the same time. “Thank you, Daddy,” was all she said as she looked upward.
Coda: In a matter of fewer than two months, the social system wheels were suddenly and unexpectedly churning in her favor. B was soon reunited with her children, fitted for prosthetic legs, and off the streets.