A Lonely Soul on a Busy Street

DSC_0256A Lonely Soul on a Busy Street

When I was on my way to school early in the morning two days ago, I spotted an African American woman in her 50s sitting on the bus bench in front of Applebee’s along Grand Ave. She covered her head with a hood and wore layers upon layers of clothing – all alone and huddling underneath a thin blanket. She had a duffel bag with her. My parents had spotted her a couple of times wandering precariously around Walnut area for at least couple of months now.

I couldn’t believe that she spent her night there. I couldn’t imagine how she could stay out there for the entire night with temperatures 37F and below. I could barely spend five minutes in the freezing cold outside myself. My heart ached when I thought of her.

I knew I had to do something – anything. Maybe all she needed was to be shown a bit of kindness.

Right after I came back from my school in the evening, I still saw the homeless woman. She had covered herself from head to toe with the ragged blanket. She was there alone.

DSC_0259I was scared to approach her by myself, so my mom accompanied me. I wanted to buy dinner for her and I decided to ask her. I quietly said, “Excuse me.”

She coughed badly and pulled down the blanket.

I asked openly and gently, “Are you hungry? Do you want some food?”

She started to say rant something about Bible Scriptures and warned us not to “sup” with her. She seemed very defensive about us buying food for her. We nodded our heads although we had no idea what she was talking about. She must have faced a lot of isolation and scorn. It broke my heart to see that she condemned herself. She must be emotionally and physically exhausted.

Now I knew I didn’t just want to help her, I had to help her. If everyone passing by just said, “Someone else will take care of her,” then no one would take the time to help her!

DSC_0263Then I asked if she wanted money. She said yes and I gave her a twenty-dollar bill. She said, “Thank You,” averting her gaze.

I don’t know how much a twenty-dollar bill can do. I don’t know how much a thirteen year old can do. How can one little act of kindness change the world? But, as Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” And if everyone did an act of kindness every day, perhaps love will once again make the world go round.

It doesn’t matter why she is homeless, whether because of unemployment, addiction, mental illness, or maybe she chose her lifestyle. The fact is, being homeless is painful.

Sometimes all people need is a little loving push in the right direction. I know that I can’t stride into her life and make decisions for her. But I can just be there, being present by sending her some food, blanket or prayer etc. I may feel powerless to help someone in a difficult situation, but the power of prayer connects me with a almighty God!

Now more and more people are sleeping out on the streets due to the tough economy. I know there are countless of homeless people out there. We can’t help them all. But I can’t ignore the only homeless person in my community (City of Walnut), and not offer a helping hand.

Because I know, if you look into someone’s eyes, you’ll see a galaxy. You’ll see an ever-shifting, never-ending galaxy of stars, held together by the very fragile hold of a universe of memories. The galaxy is the very essence of who they are. I looked into the woman’s eyes and I knew that her galaxy was there – it was just hidden by defensive walls of hardships. That is when it is so important to meet someone’s eyes, to see their galaxies, because although galaxies alone are weak, galaxies interlocked make up an undefeatable universe.

She is still sitting there as of today. So if you see her on the bus bench, you can help her out by buying her food, giving her money or blankets, or praying for her in these especially tough economic times while long-term help is on its way.


Walnut Sheriff’s and Officials Working to Aid Homeless Woman

Recently, Diamond Bar-Walnut Patch blogger Cassandra Hsiao wrote about a homeless woman who regularly sleeps on a bus benchnear the McDonald’s on Grand Avenue.

Hsiao reached out to the community and to city officials in an effort to get the woman, who is suspected of having some mental health issues, assistance.

At last week’s Walnut City Council meeting, staff gave an update on what the city has done so far in reaching out to the unnamed woman.

Mary Rooney, the city’s community services director, said that Walnut Sheriff’s Deputy Doug Daley has made contact with the woman, going “above and beyond.”

The contacts provided a chance to make an assessment and get information needed to get her the assistance she needs, Rooney said.

“There is lots of reluctance and someone needs to want to accept the help,” she said.  “The idea is to allow clergy and social services and as many people make contact in the hopes that one day she will accept that assistance.”

Mayor Mary Su said that a social worker is assisting the woman. Several facilities and churches are willing to offer her a place to stay for a week or two weeks, but she can’t be forced to leave, Su said.

“She likes Walnut,” she said.  “If a person has mental illness, the sheriff’s cannot force her or take her away.  She has to be willing to go on her own.”

The Sheriff’s Department has contacted the woman’s family and they are unwilling or unable to help, Su said.

The mayor urged the public not to give her money, adding that donations might make it harder to get her to accept help from social services.

“It is not safer for her to live on the bench,” Su said.  “The social worker is working with her. Let the social worker and the sheriff’s deal with her at this point.”



About Cassandra Hsiao

Cassandra Hsiao is a senior at OCSA (Orange County School of the Arts). Her work has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and National Student Poets Program. She has been chosen as finalists of playwriting competitions held by California Young Playwrights, The Blank Theatre, Writopia Labs, and Princeton University. Her poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in TeenReads, Jet Fuel Review, Feminine Inquiry, Aerie International and more. She also conducts print and on-camera interviews as a Star Reporter and Film Critic for multiple online outlets. She won a National Gracie Award in Student Online Video Host Category by The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation . https://twitter.com/Cassandra_Hsiao

Posted on January 11, 2013, in Giving Back to the Community and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What an amazing act of kindness Cassandra. You have such a warn and giving heart. You continue to amaze me as you strive to make the world a better place.

    • Hi Mr K,

      It is humbling experience for me to understand and apprecite the power of writing and giving. After my post was published on local Patch, Mayor promised to take care of her. I’m relieved now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: