-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX
When I read Reed’s invitation to share in his daily $10 give on 29Gifts.org, I knew immediately I would be an investor. When I told my mom what I was going to do and suggested she participate, she thought I was nuts.
After reminding me that I’ve been unemployed for two years, my husband and I are in debt, and that my husband won’t be too happy about me giving away $70 to strangers, she added, “We taught you kids to never talk to strangers and now you want me to AND give them money? Are you crazy?”
Maybe. But I’m in good company.
I was drawn to my first Kindness Investment, Patricia M., while standing in a very long line at the Post Office. She was wearing a pink baseball cap, food-stained Donna Karan NY sweatshirt, jeans, and a fanny pack around her waist. She had near her two fully stuffed backpacks and held an old, scuffed up handheld radio with the earbuds in her ears. She counted her change several times before deciding which services she could afford to add to her shipment. My first impressions were that she was very well-spoken, very tall, friendly, possibly homeless and had an eye problem, as she leaned in closely to where the clerk’s finger pointed, showing where to sign on the delivery confirmation slip.
After her transaction ended, she turned around several times, asking question after question of the clerk already serving other customers.
“Oh, another question – How do I get a P.O. Box?” “I’m sorry, one more question. How much does it cost?” “May I have the forms to get one?” “Thank you!” “Bless You!” The clerk appeared more than happy and patient to answer her. The long line of customers was drawn to her, as well, as we pitched in to answer more questions. “How much is this?,” she asked aloud to no one in particular. I told her the shipping box she held was $3.75. Another customer said she gets them for half that at Walmart, so she thanked them and put the box back on the counter.
As she turned to collect her backpacks, I introduced myself. “Hello, I’m Mary. I have a project I’m working on I think you can help me with. If you’re not busy for the next 15 minutes or so, I’d love to tell you about it.” Without hesitation or hint of suspicion, she said, “I’m Patricia. Yes, I’ll help you. My bike is in the front lobby with my other things. I’ll wait there for you.”
After adding the shipping box (the one that Patricia decided not to buy) to my purchase I found out it was half-price! I approached Patricia in the lobby, told her about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if she would accept my $10 kindness investment for the day. “YES! God Bless You. I will gratefully accept! You don’t know what this means to me! I ABSOLUTELY accept your $10! Thank you!”
“I also saw you needed a box, so I got one for you.”
“Praise the Lord! Thank you! Oh my God, this is unbelievable”, she said.
I invited 55-year-old Patricia for pizza next to the Post Office and offered to help carry her bags, which were heavier than I thought possible. I could barely carry one and she carried several while riding her bike. It turns out Patricia is legally blind – legally blind, toting heavy bags and riding a bike! “This is going to be a very interesting meeting,” I thought.
Patricia is an African American born and raised in Austin, Texas. A straight-A honor student, she loved learning and reading. She transferred to Houston in 1978 with her job at the time and has been here ever since.
Things took a downward spiral in 1987-88 after her mother died. “I lost control of life and reality. I locked myself away and started destroying myself”, she shared, using the cuff of her sweatshirt to wipe away the tears. “I was around 38 years old, five months pregnant with a broken foot, the father had abandoned me and I got arrested for probation violation. Then God intervened.”
During time in jail, she read the entire bible in 60 nights, from sundown to sun-up. “God planted seeds in me back then and now they’re sprouting”, she said smiling.
Back in court, the judge had just sentenced her to 15 years in jail when she went into false labor. Seeing she was pregnant, he threw out the sentence and sent her to a rehabilitation center called The Shoulders, a home for pregnant women in trouble. It was there her daughter was born and “everything became new.”
She and her now 17-year-old daughter were evicted from their apartment last year and have been living in hotels. She has two sons, but didn’t say where they lived. She receives Social Security Disability Income, after losing her sight last year during a routine eye exam to treat what the doctor diagnosed as glaucoma. Patricia believes she has cataracts and that the glaucoma medicine is what blinded her, so she stopped using the prescribed drops.
“Have you ever been in a burning house filled with smoke?” she asked me.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well you’re lucky”, she laughed, hinting that she may have. “That’s what I see – outlines of things, but the details are very dark and smoky.”
“But you ride a bike,” I said in astonishment. “Do you ever fall or run into anything?”
“Of course! I’ve even been hit by a car. You’re gonna fall and roll around in ditches, just like in life. But you get up and keep going.” Patricia doesn’t see her blindness as a curse, nor is she afraid to die. Her favorite quote is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with God.” She believes her purpose in life is to share God’s word, because her life is testament to His promises.
“When you find your life’s purpose, you can live fully and lack nothing, regardless of what’s going on around you.” After a lifetime of struggling, Patricia knew she was in the presence of God when she finally found rest amidst the turmoil and chaos and blindness. “You may see me as homeless, but I have everything I need. I’m in submission!” She’s not sad about being blind. Her doctors told her she could wake up totally blind any day, but that doesn’t bother her, either. “The evil that took my eyesight isn’t going to break me. God gave me other senses.”
Patricia is going to use the $10 towards credit on her bus fare card, as she takes her bike, backpacks and computer with her everywhere she goes. “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve been assigned a mission from God and I’m going to fulfill it. They said Moses and Noah were crazy, too. No one believed them, either,” she laughed.
Her mission to bring attention to government and social service corruption began in 2006. She needed the box to start shipping legal documents she’s been collecting as evidence. “I’ve carried this burden long enough. Literally! Those bags are HEAVY,” she laughed. “It’s time to let go and let someone else carry on that part of the mission. God’s got more for me to do.”
Her greatest wish is to find a way for her and her daughter to make a home in San Diego, California. She wants her daughter to experience more of the world and see that “the sun doesn’t shine any differently on Oprah or Michelle Obama.” She’d also like to find her long lost older brother, another moment that brought great sadness, as well as rekindle a relationship with her estranged younger brother, who lives just outside of Houston.
Patricia has a presence about her; a pure sense of purpose that pours from her soul. I felt I was in the presence of courage and greatness and I was very inspired by our meeting.
Her current mission is to make a change. She loves our country and wonders if Americans really know what the words to our national anthem or pledge of allegiance really mean. She asked me if I knew the words to The Star-spangled Banner. “Yes, I think I do,” I replied. “Let’s hear it then. Start singing.” So there we were in the front lobby of Pizza Hut singing The Star-spangled Banner at the top of our lungs. “I love and believe in this country, but we need to fix it. We can’t keep trusting someone else to do it for us”, she said.
“I want to go to Washington and touch President Obama and he will look around and say, ‘Somebody touched me; who touched me?’ I’m going to draw from his power to make positive change,” she said. “I’m going to make a change in this country. God told me to.”