Sharing: A Conviction

I met Chandra on the first day I arrived in Chicago. She helped to bring my luggage in. She used to come to ask for money and still does. One night, almost midnight, she came to look for one of my sisters and I said that she was not at home through the door and let her go away. I never talked with her personally.
One day she came to look for one of my sisters while we were having a party. I did not know what should I do, let her in or let her stand outside. I did not want to be looked as a cruel person by leaving her outside. Finally, I let her stand outside while waiting.
As Chandra wished to work, I tried to look for job possibilities from the social worker at University of Chicago Hospital but they only dealt with health. McDonald’s had various positions through online application but I did not know whether she can use a computer or not. I asked God to give me the ability to help the one who encounters me.
Chandra came on Oct 14 to look for one of my sisters to ask to clean the leaves. She needed bus fare for her doctor appointment in the afternoon, she had missed her morning appointment already. I said the sisters were away and would be back on Sunday. She walked away from our door, then I asked her “How are you?” so she walked back and she started to share her story by the stairs in front of the kitchen while showing her appointment letters. She has cervical cancer and bipolar disorder, has 8th grade education, has five children: the eldest died, three children live with her father but she does not know where they are, and the youngest 19 months usually stays with her neighbor who has a grandson. I asked her “do you smoke/use drugs/sell yourself?” and she said she smokes sometimes, doesn’t use drugs even if she would like to do it, doesn’t sell herself/prostitute. She should have another health appointment on Oct 16 at Michigan Ave for SSI. I read the letter but I couldn’t remember who the sender was. There were three envelopes with the same logo. She will have radiation because the medicine for the cancer is not effective anymore. She was raped in Sep. She already tried to get money – for around four hours that morning but nobody wanted to give her a job and she did not know where to go to get money. She was desperate but she answered all my questions and sometimes explained something e.g. bipolar clearly. She was fired from McDonald’s. She tried to apply for jobs (including McDonald, restaurants, etc) but they did not want to accept her because her teeth are not in good condition, she showed me her teeth too. I offered to pray for her and she said she got all the prayer that she might need. I said that I was sorry that I could not help her even though I was tempted to have her rake the leaves but I could only give her a transit card $ 6.00. I asked her not to sell herself or do anything criminal. She said “thank you sister” and then left. She was in tears when she said she was desperate and raped.
Two days later, she came and informed that she re-scheduled her appointment to Oct 17 because she could not make it on Oct 16. I read the two appointment letters with the psychiatrist and the internist on Oct 16 and 18. She also needed a stamp and an envelope to return the transport reimbursement form concerning her health appointment. For this, she should meet the psychiatrist and internist. We talked in front of the kitchen. I was shaking because it was so cold. I picked up an envelope, USD. 0.42 stamp and transit card around USD. 4.00 from my community.
She came again several days before Halloween with trick or treat box for Unicef when my sister and I had our supper. She asked to come in because it was so cold and also asked for food. I gave the pennies we had and she opened the box to put the money. She kissed my cheek before left. She said she would send the letter for transport reimbursement the next day.
She came with her son on Oct 30 to ask for money to buy McDonald’s food (nugget and apple pie) and pampers for her son. I held her son for a while but he started to cry so I gave him back to her. She said she sent the letter for transport reimbursement and still waits the result. Since she really needed the money so I gave USD. 20.00 from my community as downpayment for cleaning the leaves and would pay the balance USD. 5.00 later. She gave the money to her son and then her son gave it back to me so she took the money back from me quickly. She would take care of her son so she would do it around 7 p.m. I asked her to come the next morning so she could clean it well. She agreed to do it the next day but she did not come yet. I left a message at her cellphone to keep her promise.
According to Mr. Leonard, he knew Chandra around 20 years ago as a street girl and helps her including giving her jobs, she is smart, catholic, read the Bible, has to take a lot of medication, can drive, can do simple paperwork but has to be supervised. He gave the phone to Chandra so I asked her to keep her promise. She came to get the balance payment and did not clean yet because it was raining.
At first, I did not pay attention to Chandra personally even though I know her presents. Gradually, I reach out to her by trying not to judge her attitude, looking for job possibilities, and talking personally. She is somebody who needs help even though I do not know exactly what I should do to help her. She reached out to me by sharing her life story, explaining her answers and kissing my cheek.
There are suggestions not to give food to somebody else to avoid any problem in the future and not to give money to beggars to prevent them from buying drugs/alcohol. I do not know where my stand is. It is not easy to decide to give or not to give money, to let her in or let her stand outside, to call or not to call her to keep her promise. I prefer to give a job so she has a little income from her own work, I let her in only when she asked, and I decided to call her because I wanted her to keep her promise. It is a transformative moment for me as I started to act out as my own conviction.

Sr. Anastasia B. Lindawati, M.M.

Re-posting from Maryknoll Sisters Formation House Blog: