“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)
“Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)
March 16, 2016
She is one of the most vulnerable women I have met thus far. A fellow homeless friend of hers brought her over to me on the street outside Planned Parenthood, where I was handing out information about alternative free resources for pregnant women.
Sheila* was petite, very sweet and timid. Staring at the ground as she spoke, Sheila affirmed that she was indeed about 3 months pregnant. “Usually I would be happy to be pregnant, but it’s hard living on the street. I don’t do drugs. I’m a good person. I’m dirty, but I’m not a bad person. Look, I’ve been abused.” Pulling up the sleeve of the grungy oversized green jacket she was wearing, she exposed a couple frightening scars on her arm. “My husband doesn’t want me,” she continued in a monotone voice. “I don’t know why. I’m not that ugly.”
“No, Sheila,” I interjected. “You are beautiful.”
We spoke for a few more minutes. I gave Sheila a pink plastic rosary. Her face lit up as she immediately put it around her neck.
“People tell me to go to a shelter. But it’s a scary there. So I sleep outside. A nice lady gave me some new clothes and a Bible, but someone stole my cart when I was sleeping. They took everything. I talk to people of God all the time. My husband tells me not to, but I do anyway. Everyone else might leave me, but I know Jesus will never leave me. I always have Jesus.”
I shared with Sheila about the Sisters of Life, who might be able to help in her very difficult situation. She agreed to speak to them if I called. But it was early in the day, and the Sisters did not initially answer their phone. Sheila looked like she was going to walk away, telling me that she would go there later. I knew she didn’t have a phone and interiorly questioned her capacity to make it to Manhattan alone.
Trying to stall, I invited her to pray with me. Sheila closed her eyes and put her small hand firmly on my arm – almost like she was holding on for life. We began to pray. Suddenly, my phone rang. It was the Sisters! I stood nearby while Sheila explained her situation. Her voice cracked as tears began to roll down her face. My heart ached for this poor woman.
All of a sudden, Sheila handed the phone back to me and began to walk away. “Hello?” said the confused Sister on the other end. Still holding the phone, I followed Sheila and instinctively grabbed her hand. Sheila simply moved away and kept repeating, “I’ll get there. I’ll get there,” until she disappeared down the sidewalk toward the subway station.
I don’t know the conclusion to this story, and maybe I never will. I pray for Sheila and all the other vulnerable pregnant women living on the streets. I only know with absolute certainty, like Sheila, that Jesus will never leave them alone.