The Peach Lady & Stories from the Streets

The Peach Lady & Stories from the Streets

by the Rev. Kay Rohde, Ministry Development Coordinator, Episcopal Diocese of Northern California

Stories are powerful.
The following is a collection of brief stories from the streets and from life.

She sits at the end of the off-ramp in a red, dented electric wheel chair. I take that off-ramp often, as it is my route home from physical therapy. I probably have seen her there most days, as I come to the stop light, but I don’t really “see” her. In fact, I probably try not to see her. I don’t look her way because there is always something I need to move on the seat next to me, or there is something really interesting on my fingernail. The light changes and I turn left, and continue on my way – safely away from an encounter.

One day in April, I pulled up to the red light at the end of the off-ramp, and there she was. On this day, protected by sunglasses, I dared to look over at her and saw that she held a sign that read, “Hard times – anything helps.” I don’t know what got into me (well actually, maybe I do), but I rolled down my window. She rolled over to the car and I told her that I didn’t have any cash (which was true) but I asked her what would help? She smiled at me and said “peaches, I love peaches. But I would like any kind of fruit. And I like those ‘nature’ bars.” I told her that it was too early for peaches, but I would see what I could do. She rolled back to her spot, but just before the light changed she said to me “Are you okay? Is everything okay? I haven’t seen you come by for a while.” I was taken aback! Then I filled with a mixture of feelings, like shame, that I had not really thought that someone who was in “hard times” could care about me, and then a growing warmth that comes when a connection with another human happens.

I bought a box of granola bars to keep with me, but I did not see the woman for several weeks. A most amazing thing happens when you dare to make contact with another human being. You begin to care. I was worried about her now. I had no way of knowing if she was okay, no way of contacting her. I did not even know her name. Finally, she was there one afternoon. I handed her the granola bars and asked her name. Judy is at that corner most days at rush hour. And bananas and strawberries substituted for peaches until July, when the peaches started to ripen.

One of my favorite books is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. In this story, the boy has a rose that he had adopted. And even while he is on his journey, he is concerned about his rose that is back on his home planet. He explains that he has "tamed" the rose – and that “you are responsible forever for that which you have tamed.” I don’t know what the next chapter of this story will be, or even if Judy and I will connect again. But I learned a valuable lesson about the Kingdom. We, who are blessed with enough food, a safe place to sleep and good medical care, do not have a corner on the market of caring and sharing. Lessons learned on the streets.

At a busy street intersection near my office, the medians next to the left turn lanes are popular places for people to hang out and seek assistance. Last week, I was waiting to make a left turn and a woman that I had noticed in the area before was walking the median. She started at the head of the line of cars and walked past us, holding her sign. None of us responded, except to look away. I watched her in my rear view mirror. When she turned around to head back in my direction, something made me roll down my window and ask her if she would like some granola bars. She said “Oh, yes please, that would be wonderful! God bless you.” I gave her the bars and she moved on. Then, I watched as the woman in the car ahead of me rolled down her window and handed her some bills! Another lesson from the street: helping, sharing and acknowledging another’s humanity can be contagious!

Then there is Edward. He stands at the intersection of Howe and Arden Way with his sign “Homeless Vet.” We met one day during a red light, when I rolled down my window and said “Hi!” and asked his name. Every now and then I have granola bars, but I always roll down the window and say "hello" and hear how his day has been. He does not become belligerent and rude if I do not have anything to give him. He smiles, asks how I am doing and blesses me. More lessons from the street.

Stories are powerful. That is why learning to see our experiences and encounters as stories is important. But for a story to have power, it has to be told. We have to tell our stories, and we have to listen to the stories others tell us. Stories are powerful because when I tell my story, you relate your experiences or your story to mine. When I listen to your story, the images evoke memories of my own experiences. Connections are formed. My story and your story becomes Our Story.

I shared my story about the Peach Lady with a good friend. She asked if she could share it in a sermon. I heard that sermon, and hearing my story retold within the context of the preacher’s story made the original story even more powerful. Now the connections were not just Judy’s and mine, but all who heard that sermon are now connected through that story. Who knows what might grow from the simple telling of a story?

And the most amazing thing? My story and your story becomes Our Story, and our stories become part of God’s Story. We all are a part of God’s Story! Go out and listen for the stories of the street, and share your stories with all you meet!


6 comments (Add your own)

1. David Shewmaker wrote:
Kay -- what a great story, all 3 of them. I would love to borrow them and tell them in sermons, perhaps the monthly newsletter. Would that be OK?

A few days ago I was at a gathering of spiritual leaders, which included a few native Americans. I told one of them a story about my daughter when she was 6 yrs old, then, he told me one about his daughter when she was 6 yrs old. Sometimes telling a story results in getting told a story. Next time we see each other, remind me, and I'll tell you both stories, one which is very funny, the other is quite profound.

Let's all become seers, hearers, and feelers.

Tue, October 21, 2014 @ 2:04 PM

2. johanna f. knaus wrote:
thank you for sharing. I truly am going to go buy a few boxes of granola bars to have ready in my car and ask a person their name. There are so many people with out food or without love through no fault of their own. It will be the least I can try. thank you for the very doable and thoughtful idea.

Tue, October 21, 2014 @ 3:39 PM

3. Gary Brown wrote:
Kay, thanks for sharing these stories. It reminded me that, in order to tell stories, we have to actually make contact with those people we encounter, whether at a street corner, in front of a supermarket, at the check-out stand, or anyplace else, convenient or not. Otherwise we are basing our stories on our own prejudices, biases and opinions - and we are not expanding our awareness of the variety of persons that constitute God's children. Bless you.

Wed, October 22, 2014 @ 7:18 AM

4. Karen Siegfriedt wrote:
Wonderful stories. We at Trinity in Sutter Creek have made 1 gallon food bags for the homeless with all sorts of food and socks etc. When we meet a homeless person in Amador County, our parishioners have a bag ready to offer.

Wed, October 22, 2014 @ 11:55 AM

5. Jones Jo wrote:
and when you take TIME to stop or share the rest of your day is so truly blessed

Mon, October 27, 2014 @ 10:51 AM

6. Paul Knaus wrote:
I had never thought of it like this.... Quite often I think of someone trying to make a dime to buy liquor, or scam those they get money from. But, the bottom line...would they really be there if they didn't have to be? Are the invisible to me? Yes...prior to reading this. I am not a religious person, but I am a person of compassion and perhaps I need to open my mind and my heart just a little bit to extend compassion to those who may not be as fortunate as I am, regardless of what they may do with my donation. I will carry anything that's non-perishable that I can hand out as my way to help others.

Mon, April 6, 2015 @ 1:11 PM

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