Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A New Definition of Woman

(Edited repost from June 2011 . . . )
I didn’t take the circuitous routes Dad suggested to my first post-convent job. So men did approach me. They didn’t “hit on” me. They asked for money. I always gave them whatever change or dollar bills I had.

            I’d been taught that we could come upon Jesus unawares and not recognize him. In my mind, these men were Jesus. I couldn’t say no.
            One day the vice-president of the publishing firm where I worked saw me handing money to a man sitting on the sidewalk, his back against a wall. “Thank you, Ma’am,” the drifter said and smiled. A serene smile over the gaps of missing teeth. Surely Jesus.       

            I crossed the street to where my employer waited on the corner. “Dee, don’t give these guys money,” he said. “I know how much you make.”
            “They might be Jesus.”
            I explained. He shook his head. “If you have to give them something, tell them you’ll buy breakfast. They'll never take you up on that. They’re looking for booze money.”
             As we passed the café I could see Jesus and myself eating together there. And as time passed, I did have breakfast with several of the men who inhabited the sidewalks, their heads drooping between tented knees. As we ate, they shared their life stories with me. They were down on their luck.

            One had a different definition of woman from what I’d learned in the Scholasticate. On the spring day we met, I wore a new dress. Short-sleeved. Bright yellow splotched with white daisies. A narrow belt.
             I was standing across from the office, waiting for the light to change. A man in soiled clothes shuffled toward me. His face sported whiskers and dirt. His straggly hair hung against his hunched shoulders. This is Jesus I thought.
            I started to dig for coins.
            “Ma’am, you’re one mighty fine woman,” he mumbled.
            The coins tumbled to the sidewalk. Flustered, I leaned over to pick them up. My thoughts tumbled with them: He’s talking about my figure. This dress is too clingy. My body’s not hidden in black serge. He can see the outline of my bosom. I covered it with my purse.
            “Did ya hear what I told ya? One damn fine woman,” he slurred.
            “Thank you.”
            “Real perky.”
            “Thank you.”
            The light changed. I started across. He followed.
            “One damn fine figure of a woman.”
            “Thank you.” I walked faster.
            “I’m tellin’ ya the truth, Ma’am. One mighty fine figure.”
            “Thank you.”
            I wanted to run, but this was Jesus. He might smell like whiskey, but who says Jesus has to be a teetotaler? He was the most famous brewer of all time. Witness Cana. Who says he has to wear newly laundered clothes? This was Jesus.
            “How’d you like some breakfast?” I asked.
            I treated him to a meal. Hank was a fine man.
            And I?
            I wasn’t a scout or a seamstress. But I was one fine figure of a woman.
            Damn fine.

Art and photographs from Wikipedia


  1. You're a fine writer, too. Damn fine.

  2. Excellent post Dee, I have followed your post with interest and each one is a joy to read.


  3. I surprised you took him to eat breakfast and he didn't give you any trouble. I agree with your boss, though--to offer a meal and not the cash. I bet some of them appreciated the company more than the food.

  4. I am the same way: if someone asks me for money and I have some, I cannot withhold, because there will possibly be a day when I might need a handout. This is a really good story, well told. I enjoyed putting myself in your shoes.

  5. I don't know if my comment was saved or not. I just said I felt glad to have the opportunity to stand in your shoes.

  6. Oh my, I loved this story. It was amusing, thought provoking and sweet. Thanks.

  7. I am absolutely gorgeous. I know because a man sitting on the steps of my church told me so. I invited him in for the service and snacks afterwards. Sadly, he did not join us. God bless you for your kindness.


  8. wow, profound post! I wish more Christians were like you.

    Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

  9. And you are still a fine figure of a woman. Damn fine. And Inspirational. And an incredible writer. Thank you for being you.

  10. You always go the extra mile...and I don't think you know how extraordinary you really are. This is an amazing story. Mighty fine indeed :-) Debra

  11. I loved that, and you did right. I have always been a bit wary of men. One of my male nursing colleagues always bought food when we saw someone who looked hungry..Yes! they are Jesus, I agree. xxx

  12. Dee, an inspiration, you are. An amazing post: here in London we have always been stingy and bought coffee. Breakfast sounds much nicer.

    And...peace :-)

  13. I can so relate to this excellent story. I come from a strict Catholic background, and can just see my mom reacting the same way to someone like that on the street. She left Kansas City and lived in New York to work for United Airlines back in the early 1960's.

  14. Dee I'm glad you reposted this! I loved it the first time and I love it more now! It really shows your heart and what kind of a person you are. From the inside out your Damn fine woman. :)

  15. And so you are, Dee, in every way. :-)

  16. Lovely post :). I often hear myself say "this is Jesus," as well, a habit from my childhood.
    Although as I've grown, I've spent enough time hanging out with homeless folk to know that sometimes, the stereotypes are right and by giving them money, you're helping them feed their addictions. And I don't think Jesus would want me to do that to Him... which is when I get all confused and cloudy and don't know what to do.