You Are Loved

by | Jun 2, 1999 | Christmas, God's Love

She sat huddled in the doorway, trying to fight off the biting December wind. With a thin coat and her leg in a cast, she seemed small and vulnerable, but I knew she must be tough – much stronger than I, or most people I knew. She was the only homeless person on the streets of San Francisco who didn’t ask us for money. Never, not once.

My husband and I were on a weekend getaway, to a city we both loved (He for the sourdough bread and I for the shopping.) As we got out of our cab in front of the hotel, we saw her for the first time. I liked her right off because she wasn’t drinking from a mysterious brown paper bag, she wasn’t aggressively asking for money as so many other homeless people were. She was reading. Hunched over her book, trying to capture the last of the winter daylight, she struggled to both keep warm and lose herself in its pages. I wondered about her the rest of the night. I wondered what got her to this place of desolation and cold, of hunger and loneliness. I tossed and turned in our warm and clean hotel bed, knowing she was outside somewhere with nothing more than one blanket and one book.

Every time we left the hotel, we would see her in a different doorway, always keeping to herself and always reading her book. She never responded to my cheerful “Hi!”, and I knew she just wanted to be left alone. She had long dark hair, deep brown eyes and looked small and frail huddled deep in the doorways that were her shelter from the world.

On our second night, as we headed back to the hotel, my husband and I talked about the quiet homeless woman. We both wanted to do something for her, but didn’t know how she would react, since she never asked for anything and seemed to want to only rely on herself. But deep in my heart, I knew I couldn’t leave without at least doing something. Christmas was looming ahead in only a couple of weeks and my heart ached for a woman who would spend it in solitude and cold, without family, without gifts.

I said a quick prayer in my heart, asking God to help me know what we could do. Before returning to our hotel, we found a department store and wandered through, looking for exactly the right gifts for our friend who had no idea who we were. We kept looking at each other and laughing at our own excitement. Warm gloves were my husband’s first suggestion. We found perfect red, thick wool gloves and grinned, knowing her hands would now be warm. Being an avid nighttime reader myself, I knew the next “must” on our list was a good flashlight and extra batteries. She could read at night and chase the demons away when the dark got to be too much for a woman sleeping in a doorway in Union Square. We added a few small treats – it was Christmas after all, and then went in search of the last gift I knew I must give her. We headed for the nearest bookstore and I said another quick prayer for guidance. Buying a book for someone is really difficult, especially if you have no idea what they like to read. Almost immediately I walked right up to exactly the right book. I felt a delicious thrill as I read the author – my favorite, Maya Angelou. Her stories and poetry told of hard times, but of deep determination and strength within. A woman of great strength, I knew her words would reach this woman’s soul and hoped they would bring her comfort during the bitter winter she was facing.

We hurried back to the hotel to put it all together and happily spotted her just outside, once again reading her book, her leg in its cast resting on her thin blanket. I tried my “Hi!” One more time and once again she ignored me. I somehow knew this would be more a gift for me than for her.

We returned to our room and quickly filled a Christmas bag with our gifts. I wrote inside the cover of the book “Merry Christmas! You are loved.” And said a quick prayer that she would accept our gifts and they would in some small way, be of use to her.

Hand in hand, we walked outside again, buttoning up against the wind and half-ran to her spot in the doorway.

It was empty.

We looked around and could see her nowhere. With tears in my eyes, I realized we were too late. She had found better shelter or left the area entirely. We walked the streets of Union Square until it was very late, her bag clutched in my hands and a constant prayer that we would find her in my heart. We ended up back at our hotel, the bag still with us and the woman nowhere to be found. I couldn’t stop the tears. Where was she? Was she hurt or freezing or scared? I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone so alone and so lost in such a big city. Now all I could do for her was pray.

The rest of the weekend my husband and I searched for her. We looked in every cubbyhole, doorway and bench that she might have gone to, but we never found her. My husband had to fly out to another state for business, and I stayed on to visit with friends living nearby.

Finally, I had only a couple of hours left in the City and my determination to find her strengthened. My friend Joe picked me up and we spent our morning looking for her yet again.

“Sooz, I think she’s gone.” Joe was always the realist.

“One more time around the block.” I pleaded. “We’ll just give it one last shot and then I’ll quit.” I prayed very fast and very hard.

And there she was.

For the first time, I saw her talking to other people, her back to me, her long black hair cascading down her back and her leg in its cast told me I had finally found her. There was nowhere to park and Joe quickly circled the block again. Spotting her and not wanting to lose her again, I jumped out of the car and sprinted over to the group. Suddenly I was embarrassed and feeling stupid. Well, I was here and I couldn’t turn back now.

I tapped her on the shoulder and as she turned around I grinned like a kid, held out her bag and finally got to say my “Merry Christmas!” To the woman I had agonized over and prayed about for three days.

I wasn’t sure how she would react, since she seemed not interested in making friends, but what she did next brought tears and made my heart swell.

“Oh, THANK you!” She snatched the Christmas bag and without hesitation peered inside. She stared hard and when she looked back up at me, her eyes too were filled with tears. “A Christmas present.” She sounded as if she hadn’t had a gift in a very long time. “Thank you!” She said again and my teary words are now a blur, but I reached out and hugged her tight. I then found myself saying something I had not planned on.

“I just want you to know… You are loved.” She looked as surprised as I was, but I saw the tears and knew I had delivered my message, given the gift I was meant to. With trembling legs, I walked away, to my friend’s car and away from her forever.

I’ll never forget that incredible woman who braved the hardest thing I can imagine with quiet dignity and courage. I hope she is somewhere warm and safe and I hope she knows she is loved. She never asked for a thing, but what she gave me will stay with me a lifetime.

Susan Farr Fahncke copyright 2002

I am the founder and editor of 2TheHeart and I love my job! I am the author of “Angel’s Legacy” ( ), co-author of “Whispers From Heaven for the Christmas Spirit” and recently had stories in “Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul” and “Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul”.


You Are Loved