A lesson in caring

The first thing I noticed about Margaret was her hair. Falling well past the middle of her back, it was pearl-like and shining in a loose ponytail that swished gently across the back of her bright pink t-shirt.

As I drove past her, walking along the side of Shackle Island road, I could not help but notice the brisk strides she was taking in her trim write cropped pants while she hauled a stuffed grocery bag almost half the size of her delicate frame. On her feet, she wore sandals that looked more like something from “The Ten Commandments.” However, in the 1956 Paramount classic, I do not believe socks were an option.

Not so long ago, the sight of someone in sandals with socks would have brought out the judgmental snob in me. But as I get older, I have also traded style for comfort more often than not. I have not committed that particular fashion faux pas yet, but Margaret looked to have a few decades on me, so I am sure my time is coming.

When this mostly stylish, elderly woman was in my rear view mirror, I scanned the area puzzling over her destination. No apartments or homes within sight. Just a car wash, a McDonalds, and up the street, a local magnet school which was closed for the summer. Where is she going? And why is she walking on a busy road without a hint of a sidewalk?

As I prepared to make a U-turn, I noticed the temperature on my dashboard read 87 degrees. Way too hot for someone of her years to be shlepping through the streets on a summer afternoon. I slipped out of the traffic and onto the side of the road as I put on my hazard lights. Rolling toward her gently, I pushed the electric button that lowers the window closest to her.

“Ma’am?” I called from the driver’s seat, “Can I give you a ride? It’s awfully warm out here.”

She turned to me with a face that was no stranger to the sun.

“How far you goin’?” she asked with a smile. The truth was, it did not matter what my plans were. I could go to the bank and get stamps any time. But getting this sun-drenched woman into my air-conditioned car and back to her home up the street was now my sole reason for being there.

Six miles later, we were still driving.

“Two hours and 45 minutes,” Margaret volunteered. “That’s how long it took me to walk to my appointment today. I left at 6:00 a.m. and got to my cardiologist’s office even before he did.” I was impressed, but mostly concerned by her revelation.

“How did your cardiologist feel about you walking all the way across town?” I asked.

“I dunno,” she replied. “It didn’t come up.”

At 77 years old, Margaret is homeless. She is spending her nights these days on her grandson’s couch, and washing what clothing she has in his tub, but during the day, she is on her own and doing what she has too do. Widowed for about a decade, her possessions have been sold to pay for food and medicine. She finally lost her home about 4 years ago and goes from relative to relative until, as she puts it, “I needed to move on.”

She has four children, all in their 50’s.

Most days she can be found at the corner of Main and Bonita in town. That is the closest major intersection to her grandson’s apartment, and the timing of the stop light works best for her there when she sells a local newspaper.

I gave her my business card and offered to buy a few newspapers from her but she did not have any papers with her, and she refused to take my money. I helped her out of the car and hugged her good-bye. When I got close to her I could not help but notice that she smelled a bit like garbage. At that moment, I said a silent prayer, asked God to watch over her, and thanked God for allowing her path to cross mine.

I do not know if I will ever see Margaret again. But I am forever touched by her.


This is a true story, written by my friend, Kim, who is part of a #1-rated Morning Show, and re-printed with her permission. She did not want personal publicity which is why I’m not including her last name or station and also why I deliberately left out a bit of information that might identify the town, but I sure am grateful for her big heart.

So is Margaret.