I was on my way into the grocery store when he stopped me. He was wearing dirty and disheveled bright orange coveralls. His hair was matted, and his face, arms, and hands grimy. He told me he was hungry. I told him I would get him some food while I was in the store. “Just wait for me,” I said. I went in and did my shopping, including some items for the man outside. When I came out, I didn’t see him; he must not have waited.
I loaded my groceries in my car and started to drive away. There he was, just around the corner of the store. I pulled my car over and got out. I gave him the bag of lunch food. He was grateful. As I turned to leave, I asked him what his name was.
“Good to meet you Derek, I’m Charlotte.”
“That’s awesome.” Then he held his arms wide open and asked, “Can I give you a hug?”
Now I will confess, in a split second the following thoughts went through my head: What if he has COVID? Lice? Flu? Bed bugs? Anything? Then (still in that split second) I realized that I had spent 30 minutes in the grocery store with no mask on … so my concern had less to do with COVID and more to do with my “othering” Derek. Still in that split second, I prayed, “God help me.” I opened my arms wide and walked up to Derek and we gave each other a huge hug.