As a single mother I often felt guilty wondering if I was neglecting my children by working so much. Looking back, I some how managed to always have the weekends off and fortunate enough to keep a schedule during their school hours which meant having dinner together every evening as a family. Once my oldest became a freshman in high school she was enthusiastic about being envolved with extra curricular activities, in addition to advanced prep classes keeping her extremely busy resulting in many days of making it home as the sun began to set.
We were living in a tiny suburb of Sacramento, California known as North Highlands. Our apartment was just off Watt Avenue, a main street that stretched over several areas of Sacramento. From our upstairs living room window there was a clear view across a neglected dry field of chest high weeds along with the bus stop where I could usually narrow the time within minutes to watch for my daughter on her way in. It had become a habit for residents to travel the short-cut through the field for quick access to the bus route as well as the small shopping center on the opposite side. One evening I noticed my daughter had been more than an hour late. She was in leadership and decided to run for class president, which kept her longer than usual. I paced to and from our window looking out and then towards the landline phone waiting for it to ring for some form of communication from her. As hard as I’d try not to, worry was inevitable.
Not everyday but on occasion, I noticed a gentleman tucked away in the far corner of the field as if he was hiding in the high brush. Being the protective mother I am, (and at times a bit nosey) I decided to go get a good look at him and see what he was doing back there. I pretended to search around as if I’d lost something previously all while attempting to get a glance at the stranger. To my surprise, he had also been watching me. He was attempting to cool himself and his dog with a bucket of water. He looked up and said hello, asking how my day was with a huge smile on his face. Caught off guard by his charming demeanor, I smiled back and responded that it had been a great day! Apologizing for not intending to interupt him, as I explained I was simply looking for something I may have lost. He chuckled (as if he knew I told a lie) then introduced himself and his dog. His name was Cecil ( never could recall the dog’s name). Cecil seemed nice, there wasn’t anything scary about him that stood out. His shirt was off and I noticed his skin was red and peeling from sunburn. It wasn’t quite summer yet, but it’s not unusual for random days in a row of tripple digit heat in Sacramento. Something about the look in his eyes prompted me to ask if he’d like to bring his dog so they could take a dip in the pool. He declined the offer for the poool, but eagerly accepted my offer of a home cooked meal.
My daughter won, becoming class president actually holding a leadership position all four years of high school. During her first term with the extra responsabilities, arriving home after dark became more frequent. Although I was now aware of what was keeping her and didn’t worry as much, I still paced, watching out the window for her to exit the bus. One particular evening I heard screaming coming from the direction of the field. I didn’t know yet that it wasn’t my daughter. I grabbed my bat and ran over only to find it was one of the two young men sceaming after harassing my daughter and attempting to rob her. Thankfully, they were unsucessful due to the heroics of Cecil and his dog fighting them off. Again, I was crying and wanted to kill, until I looked over at my daughter checking to make sure she was not harmed and noticed from the look in her eyes, it seemed as though she was not phased by what had occured. To show my thanks, I invited Cecil up for a meal and hoping to become more aquainted. I offered him the use of my shower, money, whatever I thought he may need. All of which he declined. I was confused, clearly he was homeless and needed help.
When I had my first encounter meeting Cecil, I told my children about him so they would be cautious and aware that he was there. What they didn’t tell me, was that they already knew. They had been sneaking him food and water randomly for months. I was curious as to why they suddenly began to volunteer to take the trash out. In turn, Cecil also knew they were my children. He had been watching us come and go. When I asked them why they never told me about him, it was because they were well aware of my distrust towards people. Which to them meant a lecture would follow warning them to stay away from him and that because he seemed nice, didn’t necessarily mean he was. They also thought they would get into trouble had I known they were sneaking him food. Now the chuckle he gave me when I initially introduced myself made sense and also why he eagerly accepted the food, he’d already sampled my cooking. Cecil was one reason my daughter was never afraid walking through the field at night. I’d only see Cecil on occasion mainly due to me rarely going out after dark. I later learned through conversation with him that during the day he’d move around getting his exercise and would return to his spot in the field evryday just before dusk. My children had developed a friendship with him and his dog. My daughter explained to me there was no reason for her to be fearful when she knew she was being looked after. She reminded me that not only is God always with her, but also knowing mom is starring out the window watching and listening and she knew Cecil was always there. Wow! All I could do was hug them both and shed joyful tears of relief.
Eventually we moved from that area. However, I never forgot about Cecil. I kept him in my prayers and every now and then I’d go back to that same block searching often fortunate in finding and visiting with him. This went on for a few years. He was looking healthier everytime we visited. Not wanting to intrude on his privacy again, but I was curious and had to ask how he ended up in this situation. I was in awe when I learned there was no “situation”. He’d choosen to be on the streets. He never took any money from me because he didn’t need it. Cecil owned a home in Elk Grove, a very lucrative suburb of Sacramento. His son had been living in it to keep an eye on things while Cecil took some time “away from the world” were his words. Between his business and family tragedies, he simply desperately wanted a break from reality. All he “needed”, he said was his dog. At some point I could no longer find Cecil, I thought the worst. Thankfully, one day while searching for him I came across another gentleman aware of our bond. He informed me that after Cecil’s dog died, he decided to return home and that he is doing well. I never thought to ask his last name so I have no way to locate him now. Never imagining that I’d experience homelessness, I’m thankful that I didn’t judge him. I believe we cross paths with people for a reason and my lesson in this is that it is wise to always be kind to others because you never know when you’re in the presence of an angel!
Funny fact: So, I love imagery which is why I desperately tried all week to get an actual image of the field. After finally locating the spot, finding the icon for an “aerial” view (which I know I’ve done before), I then had to figure out how to turn the image to get what I wanted. Finally I did it, but some how when i save it to my PC, it was only a red dot image. Not sur what the hell happened, so I’ll be practicing that this week, hahaha!