She calls herself a “pedestrian camper”. Society, in increasingly negative connotations, would call her “homeless”, “hobo”, or even “tramp”. I’ll call her “Debbie”.
She and I met in the back-parking lot of Walmart near where people come to have their vehicles checked and maintained, and I had recently changed the inner tube of my bicycle. I was wearing a short shelve light shirt and Debbie was bundled in many layers and had a large, very large, bundle strapped to her back. Despite the heat, her head was wrapped in what might have been a bandanna topped with a brimmed hat. Her age could have been anywhere from 30 to 50. It really didn’t matter. We were just two people who sat on a curb in the shade of a tree sharing a beautiful day and each other’s company.
As our conversation grew, I learned Debbie read widely. Her speech and choice of words confirmed a well-read, deep thinking mind. She spoke eloquently and in depth of several of her most inspiring books and gave a short synopsis of a couple of good reads she recommended. Although she said she wasn’t a local, she knew the hours and location of the local library and spent much time there.
We talked about several topics until I grew bold enough to ask where she slept at night. The nights were quite cool, if not cold. She said she looked for a quiet place, usually behind a store and under a tree if possible. She wanted somewhere sheltered where no one would normally look, and she could feel relatively safe. She pointed to a sliver of grass under a tree near a fence as a possible site. As far as cold nights, she said she didn’t have enough blankets and only had a tarp for a covering, so yes, she was cold. It was a harsh life.
She, as matter of fact, said she once had an RV, then a pop-up trailer, but now, not even a tent in which to huddle in bad weather. Rain was the worst. Even so, she chose to think of herself and her circumstances in positive terms. Life had had its blows, but she was accepting, resilient and uncomplaining, enjoying the day as it was given. She was a walking lesson in thankfulness.
We sat on the concrete curb and talked for quite a while, two newfound friends encouraging and uplifting one another while sharing moments together on a beautiful, sunny day. I was grateful to get to know her, if only fleetingly.
Later, alone as the night closed in, I wondered how and where she might have found her “home” for the night, and whether she was warm enough. I prayed she would be safe.