She came for an instant coffee in a styrofoam cup, but all she really wanted was a friend.
“How are you, Kathy?” I asked as I handed her her drink.
“I don't think I'll make it through the winter,” she said.
I met her this past summer. She and her boyfriend were living on the river, and our friendship began when a team from Ohio did a clean-up project for her space by the water. I asked her what made her think she wouldn't make it. Are you sick?
“No, I just have a feeling I won't make it through the winter. I've always been able to hope until now. I just feel like I have no hope. I feel worn out.”
She's been selling herself for a long time, and now, in her forties, she's spent.
We sat at the back of the van and talked. Somehow, she trusted me enough to let her secret thoughts out.
“I know what I do is a sin. Do you think I'm going to hell if I die?”
Her eyes ached and pleaded for hope as she looked into mine. I told her that God's mercy is great, and that she is his daughter, and that he loves her very much. I told her the good news. Jesus came to show us what God is like, and he spent most of his time with rejects and prostitutes and people who didn't think they could ever be loved.
Her eyes teared up a little, and she smiled.
We talked more about recovery programs and resources she didn't know about. I gave her some phone numbers, including my own. We prayed together, and although I'm several years younger than her, I tried to give her the most fatherly hug I could muster.
“Peace be with you, Kathy. Take care.”
She started walking back towards the river, where she would be sleeping that night. We would talk again soon. I whispered a prayer to someone unseen. And away she walked, this Magdalene in waiting, a faint flicker of hope resting somewhere in her heart.