Something I Can’t Ignore

On Thursday morning, I was heading out the front door for my early morning walk…only to be stopped in my tracks as I looked across the street. 

Directly in front of our home was a baby stroller, a baby bottle and something else.  At first I couldn’t tell if someone had dumped a big bag of trash or what it was. 

I immediately turned around walked into the living room and called out to my husband Chris who had fallen back asleep in his chair.  “Chris, wake up…I need you to come out here with me!”  Chris normally doesn’t wake up really quick…but I guess after being startled he jumped out of his chair and followed me out on the front porch.

I pointed across the street and asked, “What is that?  Is it a dead body or is that someone sleeping on the sidewalk?”

I don’t remember if Chris answered…but I head across the street to find out.

I approached the person cautiously.  I looked down on the bundle of blankets and saw a woman’s brown hair.  I couldn’t tell if there was a baby bundled up with her or not.  I didn’t know if she was dead or alive.

I said, “Sweetheart, what’s going on here?”

The person in the blanket stirred quickly and was looking up at me.  It was a middle aged woman, obviously homeless and she had slept on the street overnight.  When I asked her again what was going on she said that her husband had punched her in the face and she had left home.  I asked her when that had happened and she said it was over a year ago and since then she has been living out of her car. 

What do you say to that?  I don’t remember what I said, but she kept on talking.

She went on to tell me that she lives in her car and usually parks her car on a street behind Home Depot.  But there was the crazy guy named Curt whom she was hanging out with.  Now he was talking about torturing her and killing her and she was frightened. 

As she was talking I was trying to access her and the situation and what I should do.  Part of me thought I should go inside and call the police. 

Instead I went inside to get her something to eat and drink brought it out to her.  When I gave her the food I asked her what her name was.  She responded, “My name is Sue.”

“Sue, I’ve to got go, but before I leave let me pray for you.”  So I held Sue’s hand and I prayed for her.  While I was praying she asked me to pray for Curt too.  When I finished Sue thanked me for the breakfast and prayer. 

I then went on my walk and saw Sue get up and head down the street wrapped in her blanket.

The next morning I found a container and a magazine sitting on the lamppost by our walkway.  In the container was a note from homeless Sue in which she thanked me again and asked me to pray her children and herself.  Sue said that another neighbor, whom she had encountered while he walked his dog, came and jump started her car so she could drive. 

Like most folks these days…the reality of homelessness is something that I see every day.  Be it a person sleeping at a bus stop or someone asking for money outside a store.  Sometimes I’ll buy them something to eat.  More often than not won’t give money because I don’t want them using it for alcohol or drugs. 

While I can drive by the person pushing a shopping cart down the street or the person sleeping at a bus stop…I couldn’t walk by or drive by what I encountered on Thursday morning.

While I was talking with Sue…a number of our neighbors drove by and didn’t bother to slow down.  If for no other reason than concern for the neighborhood, I would think they would stop to see what was happening.  That bothered me that my neighbors didn’t stop…it really bothered me. 

I don’t know if what all Sue said was true or real, but I do know that I couldn’t just pass her by.  I couldn’t pretend like I didn’t see her.  She must feel invisible some days as people do everything they can to avoid eye contact…for fear they may have to get involved.

Under the Overpass

I am the nameless and faceless one
Whose eyes you seek to avoid
I make my home under the overpass
My very presence
Makes you feel uncomfortable
You don’t know how to respond to my plight
You’re not sure if I’m reaping the consequences
Of years of bad or sinful choices
Or if I’ve fallen victim during these tough times
Uncertain if you should give me a buck
Buy me a cup of coffee on that cold winter morn
Or if it’s all a scam from someone too lazy to work
When you see me fear runs through you
For I’m a reminder just how close you may be
To living under the overpass just like me
By Susan Bunts Wachtel
July 16, 2010


I am the nameless, faceless one

You seek to avoid

You see me coming down the street

And look down or walk the other way

Sometimes I mutter to myself

For there is no one else to listen or who cares

When I stand behind you in the checkout line

You hold your breath

It’s been…I don’t know how long

Since I’ve had a warm shower or put on clean clothes

Of course I know I stink

Thankfully after a while I became immune to the smell

Shame should be my name

Would it be better if I had never been born

My family doesn’t even know

If I’m dead or alive

There’s no means to contact me

No phone to pick up or place to drop by

Would they even recognize me

If they passed me on the street

Society thought they did good

In giving me the right to choose

Take my medication

Or be locked up for my own good

Do tell…how can someone not in their right mind

Make a rational decision

Even though you pass me by

With nary a look or a smile sent my way

No matter how hard you try to pretend I’m not…

I am here

By Susan Bunts

September 17, 2008