We stood there together under the glow of night. The Tenderloin is different by night than day. Cockroaches move. Drug deals, sex sells and lives lost.
Her hair was short, dirty, nappy; chopped here and there. Her clothes hung on her frail body and her eyes seared mine. We stood locked to each other, losing grip to our surroundings. Her words flowed like her tears; one rolling over the last emptying themselves to a divot on her cheek. Was it a birthmark? A scar? Maybe.
She asked me my name. I said, “Hope.”
“Hope is dead,” she said.
Having rocked back on a rear foot, it was clear to me she was unsure of how I might respond. I said nothing. I just looked back into her tear-filled eyes and they consumed me.
“Hope is dead.” She said again, this time with more conviction… “I have no use for hope. I have only faith. Faith is better. Hope has nothing for me.”
“Faith’, I muttered, “Hope is dead.”
More sure now, her tears increase, coming from somewhere deeper. She reaches out for me. We stand in a tight embrace. The world outside disappears. Midst our arm-wrapped embrace her words spring forth their despair. One word to another they rise and fall with her body. Soulful words; hardly making sense yet rich in their meaning. To the very core of her being she longs to speak. Not to relief but remedy. I have no solutions to offer; only myself, my presence. I listen to her fragments. She spoke words of abuse. Oppression. Shame. Abandonment.
Therein lies her lack of hope in the face of faith.
Soon our words came together… A prayer of sorts…
Our words called forth love to usher into the corridors of her sorrow. “May Spirit hold her fiercely, constantly reminding her of her worth. She is a child of the most high God, forever in God’s embrace. May she be forever reminded of God’s presence and love. As she walks in faith, looking for hope long gone, may she be forever reminded of grace.”
As we stood beneath the city’s night of light, clutching tight to one another, I heard myself say slowly and quietly into her ear… “You are loved. You are never alone. You are loved. You are never alone.”
I have heard it said Faith is stronger, more important than hope. I have heard it said, “when all else fails, hope remains.” I do not know the answer here. I only know what happened last night on the midnight streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin between a homeless woman and myself.
Think what you will but I think God was there with us, in between and midst it all. As we disappeared to our surroundings, being fully present to one another, God stepped in to say what we needed to hear and we needed to say and for that I am grateful.