"Mamm, can I help you?" I asked.
"Is there somewhere I can warm my hands?" she asked behind slurred words.
Shamefully, I hesitated to reply. All my defenses came up and a thousand excuses poured into my mind. "I'm not in the house, so you'll have to go elsewhere."
But it was very cold, and so was she. In a thin jacket, no gloves or hat, and shoes bearing holes. Stoned or not, the woman desperately needed help.
With a quick prayer for strength, and a call to my husband, we brought her into the house and sat her by the fire.
She was able to give her name (at least 'A' name, not sure if it was truly hers). She didn't know where she came from or where she belonged. She kept leaning over the woodstove as we held her upright while she benefited from its warmth. I was sure she was going to fall headlong onto the scorching surface.
She was confused, cold, and under the influence of some mystery substance (she didn't smell of alcohol). Needing more help than we could possibly give her, I called 911.
Trying to explain to the dispatcher the events leading up to our call, I realized that this woman was a victim. She stared at us with glassy eyes while complaining of nausea and dizziness. There was no way to tell how old she was, the effects of drugs had weathered her face and her frail body spoke of past abuse.
When the paramedics arrived, they tried to get the same information that we attempted to pull from her:
"Where are you from?"
"Do you know how you got here?"
"Do you have family or friends we can contact?"
A negative reply to all the above.
We personally know the 3 paramedics that responded (the mayor, the grocery manager, and the town engineer) and all of us were surprised that we didn't know who she was...it's a very small town and we tend to know everyone in the area.
Sadly, we'll never know who she really was or how she came to our goat pen. Our guess is that she got dropped off on the highway and walked aimlessly toward our humble abode. Seeking warmth.
She was transported to a hospital and we're not sure what became of her after that point. But I learned something about myself in all of this and I need to repent and ask forgiveness. It is this: my compassion was slow in coming.
I saw her, judged her immediately, felt violated by her trespassing, and above all --- didn't want to help her (at first). She was seeking warmth, and I had a cold heart.
Lord, please forgive me...
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40