Yesterday, I had the pleasure of volunteering again with the Shamrocks for Kids Campaign which benefits Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. While I manned my assigned corner, to slang my completely legitimate and legal ‘rocks, I watched many types of people move along the sidewalk to various festivities in honor of St. Patrick’s day. Some were looking for the actual parade others were seeking the Chicago River which had been dyed Kelly Green. Yet, just a few feet away from me there was a homeless young woman sitting on the cold cement nearby the very same Randolph Metra Station to which I was assigned to ask donations. While I bellowed out: “Get your Shamrocks here!, Add some more green to your outfit, Trade your green, Your donation counts because we are 99% privately funded, and various other lines to grab people’s attention” this young woman motioned to me that she wanted to give me her change. Now this is a woman with no gloves, sitting on the ground, with her backpack and blankets. Her sign says she is pregnant, seeking a hot meal, warm shower, and somewhere to sleep. So while she is giving me her change and I’m saying it’s okay and you can still have a Shamrock sticker, she says, “No, it’s okay just take the change. It helps your tin make better noise.” I feel conflicted because she wants to help the Mercy Home just like I do and yet her situation is not ideal either. I ask her, “How many months are you? I have a six month old and still remember what pregnancy is like.” She shares more with me: her and her boyfriend are in a tough situation. They plan to give the baby up for adoption to a family friend who can’t have kids. She knows she is in no position to care for the baby – those are her words.
In this modern, fast-paced American society that is constantly adapting to many perspectives, my heart went out to her and the possibility that she was a pan-handler seemed far less plausible. No matter what her situation was, she had inspired me! Her perspective, her humility, and her ability to cast away her pride to ask strangers for money than share it with another cause when she is struggling with her own. St. Patrick’s Day meant a lot to me personally this year because my daughter’s ancestry is Irish in part. And, being a new Mom I could only imagine how being pregnant on the streets might bring down my spirit. Yet, this young woman had some semblance of a plan and while she needed the green dollars that people had shared with her along with the warm meals I watched people share with her, she helped me to appreciate even more the things I have in my life which keeping me going. So many people have inspired and mentored me along the way including this young, pregnant Mom who touched my heart and remind me St. Patrick’s Day will always go beyond green shamrocks, green dye in the Chicago River, or even green dollar bills. Let’s keep this in mind as we keep celebrating for St. Patrick the patron saint of Ireland and many hearts.