The community had watched a small African-American woman push shopping carts between three different corners of the Massaponax corridor for nearly a year. Passersby had showered her with so many sundry items that her load had grown from a single half shuttle to a train of three full-sized buggies.
To no avail, even Micah’s outreach team had tried time and again to lure her into services and coordinate help for her deeper needs. She always offered a gracious “no thank you” and encouraged that the help be given to the many others in need.
Then, she went viral.
A simple Facebook post unearthed the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who had seen or connected with this woman in their travels. One woman, however—the one behind the post—had rested her hope upon doing something more, brought the right people together and set a path for something significant to happen.
For months, the woman visited the shopping cart lady. Sometimes she would bring food. Other times it was an item she requested. Soon she earned the privilege of having the lady in her car and making short trips to the store or a local restaurant.
Each time, the woman would connect with Micah, strategize over the next step and go back to push the relationship a little bit further.
Eventually, enough trust was built that Micah’s team could join the visits and offer support toward housing.
The first time she agreed to a hotel, the shopping carts slept inside while the shopping cart lady stood on the nearby street corner contemplating what it would mean to be indoors. The next time she spent a few hours in the room and some weeks later she finally decided to stay.
As the shopping cart lady would later reveal, she wasn’t quite sure that going indoors would be a good thing. “When all of you decide to go away,” she said, speaking of us who had spent so much time trying to help. “It will be really hard to adjust to being outdoors again.”
Not only were we not going away, we assured her, but there was a whole community of people within the churches of Fredericksburg waiting to love her whenever she was ready.
A few months later, we handed the shopping cart lady a set of keys to a one-bedroom apartment. She and her carts moved in that day and slowly but surely she has allowed the addition of minor pieces of furniture.
The coat she wore all the time has come off. She no longer needs it in case she ends up back outdoors.
She sleeps at night. It may not be in a bed, but the recliner her community friend arranged for her makes an awful nice spot for a solid rest.
Her carts are less and less needed, as she has a bag for the important things and the rest stays safely locked indoors. Well—except for the one inconspicuously hiding behind a curtain in her room.
Sometimes people in need come to the village and it’s our job to welcome them in. In this case, the village had to find the person and find another way to unlock the door.