The Rosa Lee Story
After a few minutes or so, she must have noticed my cell phones and struck up a conversation by saying "you have TWO cell phones, you must be a busy lady." I looked at her closely and said: "well yes, I am a busy lady". She asked what I did that kept me so busy. I began to list all I did that kept me so busy.... when I got to the, "and I am a writer," her eyes got as big as saucers and she said, "HAVE I GOT A STORY FOR YOU!" I immediately tuned in. She began her story.
She was homeless and had come inside to get warm (just like me). She said she made Bible purses and that God had sent her to NYC to find someone who might be interested in buying and selling them for her. She told me how she designed them by items she found on the streets and she tried to include a bible in every "purse". She told me she made them because God had given her the vision and that she wouldn't give up on finding someone willing to sell them for her. She said Jesus had never given up on her and she would not give up on Him (just like me).
I was mesmerized.
She was 45 years old on this cold day in December of 2013 and as she continued talking, I grasped on to her every word.
Her story went something like this:
After being sold at the age of 13 by her mother, she was owned by a man who rented her out. She had spent 6 years in prison and was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. She had been shot in the head, stabbed multiple times, and had been in a gang whose members tried killing her when she wanted out.
Now she lives on the streets.
She spoke freely about Jesus and told me she knew him. She told me He had never left her during her hard journey. She then told me there had been a time where she had no hope and that she never wanted to go there again. She said that it was dark there. She looked fearfully into my eyes when she spoke of this dark place.
She told me she would go blind one day from the bullet still lodged in her neck... and said she went completely dark a few days prior to our meeting. She told me that she had been scared, but she kept reassuring 'me' that she had hope in Jesus.
We talked about hope and I told her if she knew Jesus she would never experience true darkness and explained that He would be her light. She looked at me and said, "yes, I know and thank you for reminding me Miss Dara... I will never forget your face... even when I'm blind."
After we had talked for well over an hour, she quickly began gathering her things and said it was time for her to go. She explained that she needed to hurry to the shelter so that she could get a bed instead of just a chair. As I looked down at the watch on my wrist, I noticed the bracelet sitting beside it. It quickly reminded me of pureness with it's solid white color. It gave light through it's stones and glistened in the light. I took the bracelet with the sparkling crystals off of my wrist and asked to see her arm. As she timidly held out her arm, I slipped the bracelet onto her wrist. She looked deep into my eyes.
She said nothing for what seemed like forever.
I stared back into the weary eyes that would one day see darkness. After a few moments of silence, she broke in with an unexpected chuckle.
I was startled out of my trance as she said, "I like your RED lipstick!" It was such a strange moment, as red lipstick is somewhat of my trademark... funny thing for her to notice. She kept snickering and explained, "They don't let us FLUFF at the shelter; they wake us at 4 AM and send us on our way." As she snickered, I noticed she covered her toothless grin with her withered hand that now wore a new white-sparkling bracelet.
I said, "Rosa Lee, look at that bracelet every day and remember the sparkle and the light... let people see it in you." She told me she would wear it every day. I smiled.
After thanking me for the bracelet and for being so nice to her, she left rather hurriedly. She had not once asked me for money or for any help at all. All she did was talk... and listen... and smile... and... change something inside of me.
I watched her walk away, rolling her one small suitcase down the crowded hallway of nameless people.
I was consumed with Rosa Lee that night. I even went back the next day to at least try to find her again. I wanted a picture... or one last word. I felt like I wanted to say so much more to her. I even asked people if they knew of her... no one did. As I got on the plane to fly home the next day, I felt as if I was leaving a part of me there, at Starbucks, in New York City.
Rosa Lee was about my same age and had been through things I can't imagine and some I can't even repeat. She's rough around the edges and her language is untamed. Most people turn their backs on her. She's different - she's poor and unkempt. She's alone. But, her words were clear and made perfect sense to me.
Before she left I asked her if she had enough clothes to stay warm... she said, "OH YES! I have everything I need." and pointed to the small rolling suitcase. I stared at it for a moment and smiled.
A few things have always stood out to me about our meeting:
The RED toboggan she wore that day. Bright RED like the blood Jesus shed.
The tattered BIBLE she held up to me. The true word of our Lord.
The pure WHITE spotless bracelet. The Lamb.
The DARKNESS that kept following her. Our enemy - Our sin.
Jesus sent Rosa Lee to all of us... to share her journey. Is it just HER own personal journey?
Or, is it OURS?
What's so different from her journey from ours?
We are all on a journey... we are all troubled at times... we all have darkness in our lives... we are all searching for hope, peace and love. Just like Rosa Lee.
We are all going along... on different roads...
but all searching for the same things.
Hope. Peace. Love.
Rosa Lee. A homeless lady?
Was it a 'chance' meeting? Emphatically, I will forever claim "NO."