She Smelled Like Urine and We Ate Slow Roasted Goat In Silence

03.23.09


One of my great pleasures as a housewife is lunch. Lunch is a silent affair eaten off my Grandmother’s Rosenthal China if I’m home, or if I go out it’s typically to an ethnic restaurant where the tab is $10 or less, the sanitation may be questionable, and the food is authentic.

Last week I was craving birria tacos. Birria is a slow roasted goat meat that is very flavorful without being gamey. There’s one taco shack (and I mean shack) in Hollywood where the Birria is consistently good. So off I went.

I had a copy of The Fourth Hand, a twenty dollar bill in my hip pocket and a huge appetite. I pulled up to Cactus and got Doris Day Parking. I ordered two birria tacos and one chicken along with a Coca Cola, I claimed a small table and sat down to read my book.

Then she looked at me. The homeless lady with the shaved head and recent pedicure. The homeless lady who wore layer upon layer of clothing in the hot Hollywood sun.

She asked, “Do you know what time it is?”

I replied, “it’s just after one.”

“Oh,” She said, “thank you” and she went back to nervously tapping her foot and whispering to herself. She was trying to calm herself, I believe.

After a few moments she interrupted my thoughts. “Excuse me, Miss?” She began, “could you tell me if it’s one o’clock in the day or in the evening?” She appeared genuinely confused.

“It’s the daytime.” I said, and sort of gestured at the sky, “it’s lunch, are you hungry?”

She nodded at me and whispered “yes”, and I was prepared to buy her a taco plate. I was wholly unprepared for what happened next.

My number was called, and when I got up to get my taco plate, she came and sat at my table. Where I had left my book. I was ravenous, and the plate was beautiful and alluring, but sitting at my table was a woman who people don’t make eye contact with, covered with dirt and urine, she was unable to tell night from day.

I gave her my plate, and reminded G-d that he doesn’t care how we feel about our mitzvot. Because I didn’t feel good about it. I felt hungry and put upon. I felt manipulated and angry, and as I went to roll my eyes to the sky, I saw that across the street from us was Project Angel Food.

We support Project Angel Food. During the last twenty years I’ve done everything from 5k’s to food delivery, to Divine Design. Project Angel Food delivers meals to homebound men and women with AIDS, they do so without judgement, and they give caretakers their lives back.

My lunch date was as critically ill as anyone with AIDS.
My lunch date was someone’s daughter.

So I ordered three more tacos and a Coke. Then I waited with my companion while she savored the food and continued her battle with confusion. I sat in silence eating my lunch with a woman whose name I don’t know.

It doesn’t really matter how I felt.

It was the right thing to do.

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20 responses to “She Smelled Like Urine and We Ate Slow Roasted Goat In Silence”

  1. Leon says:

    You are awesome

  2. Thanks for sharing…you did right.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I’m glad you could get past the resentment and listen to your gutt. You did do the right thing. She is somebody’s daughter and she did need the generosity of a stranger on that given afternoon. I remember giving my raincoat and umbrella to a homeless man outside of starbucks one morning. He was drenched and I knew he needed it more than I did. I could just zip back HOME and get a new coat.

  4. traci says:

    its those tiny things, that make you run RIGHT HOME an tell your husband of what you spent and know that he is actually happy he lets you have a wallet.

  5. Thanks for letting me know there are people in the world who see the “other” people in the world, as people.

  6. This is such a great story of what we all go through. The dilemma of helping and also the distaste of helping. Yep, so been there. You just described my entire college experience at Berkeley. So many confused, insane homeless that inspired sympathy and revulsion at the same time. I once helped a similar to the story’s homeless woman tie her dress from the free box at people park after we had seen her minutes before take a dump in the middle of a public street. Gawd. The smell chocked me as I wrapped my arms around her to assist her in tying a wrap dress she asked help with… Once got choked by a homeless guy that I was chatting with–out of the blue. You still want to help, but you become more wary over the years. I hated taking my kids to Berkeley’s south side last time we were there. As a mother, I wanted to shield them from it. They can be dangerous, but yes, as the post says, they are someone’s daughter or son.

  7. Derek says:

    I’m totally with you on this. Good on ya.

  8. Kori says:

    And do you LOVE the book, too? One of my faves. Great post.

  9. Scott Thomas says:

    Isn’t it strange how most people are willing to give and to help, as long as it’s not personal…freely giving of time, money, clothing, and food as long as no contact with those in need is involved. We want to help; but not be exposed to the ugliness of the situation we hope to help.

    What you did cost a few bucks, but was truly priceless! You gave selflessly and realized it was not your place to judge.

    Was it uncomfortable? Probably. Could it have been dangerous? Maybe. Did you make a significant impact on the life of another human being (even if they are unable to fully comprehend it)? Absolutely!

    We can all learn from your example and realize that true giving comes from the heart and serves an immediate need.

    Thank you for sharing a great message. I will think of this story next time I am in a similar situation and let compassion overcome judgment.

    Scott

  10. April says:

    This sums up humanity for me. Thank you for a great post.

  11. Goats OK if you don’t mind the bones. Ostrich is kinda like beef, and kangaroo tastes good in a barbecue sauce.

    What was the question?

  12. WillibaldoEa says:

    Your post makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. :)

    You’re a wonderful human being.

  13. Reading this I got chills. What an amazing moment in life.

  14. Jack says:

    Back in college used to volunteer at Project Angelfood. They do wonderful work.

  15. k says:

    i don’t know you but i wish people would be more like you.

    thank you. from all of us.

  16. Jacob says:

    That’s a month headstart for “Kol Dichfin Yeisei Ve’Yeichol.”

  17. gwen says:

    This is truly moving and beautifully written. I love how you can admit you were annoyed. I would have been, too. I used to think that I had to want to do good deeds for them to matter. Now I realize that sometimes the things we don’t want to do and do anyway are the best deeds of all. Thanks for sharing this moment in your life and for your honesty.

  18. […] do give, but not with my whole heart. I’m a selfish giver. I give to Project Angel Food because they gave to me. I give to LLS, because people I love need that research. I give to Epic […]

  19. […] own lunch. She neatly packages everything in Tupperware and if it’s something I enjoy like birria or nopales she will bring some for me. I always know what she’s had for lunch because in the […]

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