No, I haven't lost my mind. I am working on an idea for a poem. But the above incident did happen--I did see a young woman in the shadows beside the entrance of Marshalls. I smiled at her, even though I knew I might be inviting further interaction. I would likely have smiled anyway, but in the season of Advent, with the Advent texts in my head, there was this strange moment when I thought about the Virgin Mary and angel messengers.
But of course, my encounter was more mundane.
She did ask me for money. I don't often give away money (in fact, I rarely have cash), but there's something about a person with a child that can move me to give--and yes, I know that's easy to manipulate. I know that there might be a man somewhere who drops the woman and baby off at a shopping center and says, "Don't come back until you get x amount of money."
But last night, I had a 10 dollar bill in my purse, which I gave her. She said, in broken English, "But diapers cost $25 a box."
I said, "That's all the cash I have. At least you now have more than you had."
Do I regret giving her the money? No. I suspect it will go to something for the baby, not for drugs or alcohol, the usual reason I don't give when I have cash. But it did make me feel incredibly sad, this woman begging outside a discount store that has tons of deeply discounted clothes from past seasons. It makes me feel sad knowing that harder times are surely coming for people in poverty.
And my brain immediately started crafting a poem.