My mother taught me to never show up empty handed, so I stopped at the Whole Foods in Silver Spring to pick up something to take to a Servas event. Parking was scarce on that Sunday afternoon in late January, which meant that I had to park about a block away and limp my way to the store, since I had a recently fractured toe. On the way to park my car down the road I saw a homeless woman standing next to the stop sign at the edge of the parking lot. Everybody was ignoring her, probably out of discomfort.
In the store I looked at fresh fruit, hummus, salsa, and other delicious foods as I tried to decide which to take to the potluck. But the image of the homeless woman would not leave my mind, so I decided to spend that money on something for her instead. Then I spied the cart with the tea cookies, some of which were decorated- or cut in heart shapes for Valentine’s Day. That was it! I chose one of each of the Valentines cookies and went through the checkout.
The homeless woman was still on her corner when I came by again. We greeted each other with a smile and when our eyes met, I saw that she was a kind person, worthy of being one of my friends. I said “I’m homeless too, but I wanted to give you these Valentines cookies so that you know that you are loved.” Her eyes and face registered surprise and gratitude, and we hugged each other, blessed each other, and wished each other a good day. As I walked away, I noticed the cars in the queue at the stop sign were pulling up to give money to the woman. It seemed my small act of kindness had broken the spell of indifference in onlookers, and I hobbled back to my car, beaming.
The pot-luck host welcomed me warmly, though I had nothing in my hands. Her home offered long and bounteous tables of food, more than the guests could eat. I met many wonderful fellow travelers and travel hosts, made new connections, learned a lot, felt encouraged, and had a highly enjoyable time. At the end, the host was asking her guests to take away the leftovers, including a box of heart shaped cookies. But in this case, my hands were empty, but my heart was full.