After I wrote about my emotional encounter meeting and interacting with Ms. Fay last week, a wheelchair bound homeless woman here in Birmingham, several friends reached out saying they wanted to help. Some sent money for her and others are sending clothes and items that she can use. It made my heart so happy to see something good from the world in these sad and contentious times. I think I needed to know there was good out there just like Ms. Fay probably did.
I got the money together and filled a cloth bag with toiletries, cleaning wipes, lip balm, and several of my mom’s pretty blouses that I thought would fit her and be comfortable in the Alabama heat. We drove down to Five Points where we had seen her before, but I was disappointed to find no Ms. Fay. I know that sometimes people depending on donations will move around to different parts of the city, and I hoped that I would find her soon. My friend and UAB colleague, Cara, had written to tell me that she often sees and talks to Ms. Fay, and I asked her to text me if she ran into her. I kept the red care bag and money by the door ready to go.
We don’t go out a lot because of the pandemic, but today we’d planned to go back to Five Points for salads at Jim n’ Nick’s, and I crossed my fingers that I would find my new friend. We decided on parking across the street, and it was a good thing that we did, as we never would have seen her if we’d parked in our usual spot behind the restaurant. We got out of the car and there was Ms. Fay down the sidewalk on the other side of the street from where we’ve seen her before.
As we approached, she turned in our direction and I called out to her, Hey, Ms. Fay! How are you? She looked at me a moment and then her face broke into a huge smile as she remembered me (not an easy task with masks on, I’m sure). she greeted us and I told her that we had something for her, that my friends had sent some money to help her. I pulled out the folded bills and put them in her hand. Her eyes got huge as she unfurled the money and studied it. She suddenly burst into loud, racking sobs, doubling over in her wheelchair, rocking side to side as she cried. Dan and I patted and rubbed her back and told her she should know that people care about her- she is not alone. Once she calmed down a little bit and sat back up, I gave her the bag, telling her that more things were coming soon from another friend up north and I would be looking for her.
She began poking through the bag and shaking her head, telling me I’d brought her her favorite deodorant. She then looked up, smiled hugely, and announced, “You have a dog!” She was pointing at my Chala purse that has large paw prints on it, so I told her about Marley. She reached her arms out to Dan and I, and Covid be damned, we gave Ms. Fay a big, long, group hug there on the sidewalk. I told her our names, and that if she forget, she could just call me D. I promised her that I would be looking for her regularly and she should know that she is loved and people care. She seemed so happy to hear this, telling us that she never dreamed anyone would know or care anything about her.
I am officially adopting Ms. Fay. We can’t save everyone or fix the world’s many woes, but I can do small things to help Ms. Fay be more comfortable, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. She is a blessing, an angel in disguise, I have no doubt. I will ask her if I can take her photo next time so that everyone can see her sweet face.