Monroe Park | 04/25/16 | 2:30PM-2:50PM
Two days ago, on Monday, I met a woman named Shelby. She was sitting by herself under the shade of a tree off to the side of the park, near the west engineering building. She was seated on a blue-trimmed purple windbreaker and beside her were two groceries bags, one black and the other white with the letters “RITE AID” printed on it. I initially approached her with some food, but our chat didn’t last long. This conversation ensued after I approached her the second time.
The second time I approached Shelby, I told her, “I actually came to you because I wanted to have a conversation with you. I want to get to know the people of Richmond more.” What I really wanted to say was that I wanted to talk to her about God, but there was fear in my heart and I didn’t know if I should have started off with that – at least that was the excuse I was telling myself.
Shelby is 61. She told me that she was on drugs for 40 years. “But I’ve been clean for the last four years.” She told me how they caught her. “They caught me with cocaine three times. They didn’t want to send me at first, but I kept doing it. Probably because I wanted them to take me. I knew that I wouldn’t stop unless they took me. But even when I got out, I still went back to it.”
During our conversation, she mentioned in passing that she hadn’t been receiving her psych meds. Medical history can be a sensitive topic and I didn’t know if she wanted to disclose her ailment to me, so I tried to subtly ask her what illness she was suffering from. “I’m bipolar, and I have anxiety and depression. The last time I we went to the doctor’s they told me I was schizophrenic. I think I have two personalities. I have the rock-hard, bike-riding chick and I have the meek, spiritual chick. The Bible says the meek will inherit the earth. Like right now, I’m meek and deep. I’m a spiritual person.”
She then proceeded to tell me about God. Specifically, a God experience. She told me that one time she was standing on railroad tracks that ran over water. She was placing my foot over the metal plates, and she could see the water through the metal and the wood. “I think God was watching over me then, because I didn’t fall. I didn’t even think about it, but I think He was just with me, because I made it to the other side without falling. And that’s why I believe in God. A lot of people don’t like it when people talk about God, but I believe in Him.”
She told me more about herself. “I’m very deep. I’m a good person. I have a way with words. Like some people know words, but they don’t know how to use it and how to define it. People keep telling me I should write books, because I’m good with words.”
I asked her if she grew up in the church. “Yes and no. I went when I was really young. I went with my mother.” She told me her father stopped going and eventually her mother stopped going as well, so she stopped going, although she really wanted to growing up.
She told me about her family. Her uncle served in the war in Thailand, and he had a family there. He had a few wives throughout his life, and the second-to-last woman he married was her aunt, who was his childhood love. She told me about her parents. “My mother married my father when she was 14. He was 21. He went into the military when he was 17. He loved my mother so much, but she was 10 at the time, so he drafted to get away from her. My mother had a sixth grade education. My father had a seventh grade education. My mother stayed with me until the first grade. Then she went to get a factory job. She didn’t finish school, so that’s the only thing she could do. My father was a troubled alcoholic. He beat me. One time the police came to my house and they said, “If you lay a hand on her, we’re coming back to take her.” My mother asked me, “Why didn’t you tell them your fiancée did it?” and I thought, “Well I never thought about that before,” and it scared me. I married my fiancée, not because I loved him but because I wanted to get out of my house. His mother gave me a clerk job at a store and I would count coupons and things.”
She told me about herself more. “I was a teacher once. I got my GED and I taught kids and Bible study. But I can’t teach kids anymore, only adults, because they caught me with drugs. I can still recite parts of the Bible.”
Some other things she told me:
“My daughter sends me a check every month.”
About how she was living in an assisted living center before she was homeless, and she’d experienced some very heartbreaking things there.
She told me she went by the churches near the park to sleep there, but she was robbed and people tried to sell her drugs.
She also has disk/back problems.
She something about meeting some counselor and trying to get her bank checks and get her meds.
At the end we prayed together. God please give her faith. Lead her. Heal her.