I’ve only known her for a short while, perhaps six months or so. I didn’t know she’d become such a focal point in my life, someone I’d move heaven and earth for. I met her under the worst of my life’s conditions. I was down on my luck, homeless, unemployed, and totally broken. Her name is Mary and she’s in her early 70s, a sweet woman who represents a kindness society has largely forgotten. She always wears those velour type pants with a sweater she decorates herself. She’s kinda crafty that way. Mary has a heart of gold and cares about everyone, almost to a fault. She introduced me to a lot of people, many of whom I would have never met had it not been for her. People are her thing, though. She makes everyone her friend. She gives to the world in remarkable ways and everyone has a place in her heart, including me. Including me when I needed to belong in someone’s heart the most.
I got a phone call from Mary a week ago about coming by and having a meal with some of the old crowd and sharing a bit of my life with some of her new friends, the new rags she was hoping to turn into riches with a little TLC. I’m always willing to do that. Whatever Mary wants, I’m in. I owe her that. After all, she’s the one who introduced me to Jim, my business partner. Jim owns a technology firm and was looking for talent when we met. He took a chance on me and hired me for a programming project he was working on. Ultimately, Jim made millions on the deal and he let me sit front row at his journey to the top. Jim brought me on as a partner and I manage most our west coast accounts. The cool thing about Jim’s story is that he was in need of Mary’s friendship once, too. Just like me, Jim was at the bottom and Mary connected him to people who gave him hope. Jim gave me hope, too, and a career I’m passionate about, none of which would have been possible if Mary didn’t care about us the way she does. So when Mary needs me or Jim, or anyone else she’s touched for that matter, we’re all there. I don’t know all of those she touched and, honestly, I’d be surprised if she did either. She just gives relentlessly.
She wanted a few of us to stop by at four o’clock for a dinner on Thursday with the new faces. It was a little meet and greet. Maybe I didn’t mention it, but Mary runs a little soup kitchen we all know as “Mary’s Place” on the corner of Sunset and Main Street, in the South Center District. I spent a lot of nights living in my car on Sunset praying for something different. I probably would have starved to death if Mary’s Place didn’t exist.
After I arrived, I took a look around at the new faces looking for the sweet lady who changed my life. There were so many people, so I just got to work and introduced myself to a table of them. Lots of questions about what brought them here and where did they want to go. Lots of people needing a chance, some hope, and a little love. I told them that they came to the right soup kitchen for that. After I shared a plate and some encouragement with the table, we continued to talk and I gave my business card to most of them. All of them had so much potential and I’m so glad when I can meet these people. Being part of the senior class of the table, I got up and helped by picking up dishes. After a quick glance, I noticed a dead roach at the bottom of my mostly eaten plate.
I rushed to the back with the plates deciding if I could hold down my food. I didn’t want to make a scene, but I knew I had to find Mary and let her know that she had some problems that might close her down if mine wasn’t the only plate with a bug. I dumped the dishes in the sink and proceeded to look for the dear, sweet lady I owed so much to. I wanted to tell her about an exterminator I met and suggest she call him. As I looked, I ran into Carol, Mary’s daughter, and asked where Mary was. Carol, with watery eyes, said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t hear. Mom passed away Monday, peacefully in her sleep. We’re holding the funeral this weekend.”
I was floored. What a loss for Carol, for Jim, for me, for this room full of people who need her. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the news, I simply asked Carol how I could help and she told me to just entertain and keep the conversations going with the needy people Mary loved so much. I did and I made a few more contacts that day. But what a loss for this community. I thanked Carol for keeping the place going and not giving up when she must be in incredible pain. She thanked me for showing up and doing the good work her mom expected me to do. I told her I was going to take care of an issue Mary’s Place might have, but didn’t want to get into details. In her state, she just seemed grateful for any help. As I got into my car, I called that exterminator and set up an appointment for a service call, billed to me. It’s the least I could do for the lady that gave me hope when I had none. I think about the power of the connections that come from a room of the disenfranchised and I’m always in awe of it. Hope grows in those fertile grounds. And may God bless Mary, her family and the mission of Mary’s Place. Not even a little bug can keep down the power of humanity…
By Rory Andes
Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649
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Rory Andes 367649
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