Meanwhile, I drove to work early this morning so I could actually get something done. I got into the office at 2:25 am – a personal record. Yes, mom, I know I'm crazy.
Around 2 am I passed the Rancho San Diego shopping center (where Target is), and spotted an older woman sitting by the side of the road. I thought she might be sick or hurt, so I stopped to see if she was ok. It was an interesting experience.
Her name is Alicia, and she appears to be about 70 years old. She's filthy, and her clothes are falling apart. As best I could tell, she doesn't have a drink or drug problem – she just has no money, and the shelter she was staying in (in La Mesa) had closed. She told me she was staying near the iron bridge just down the road, but she'd been rousted by the Border Patrol, and was now looking for another place to stay. She was just resting when I stopped to check on her.
Alicia told me she'd really like to get to Clairemont Mesa, as she'd heard there was another shelter there, still open. I was headed that way (I work in Del Mar), so I offered her a lift. For the half hour ride, I asked Alicia a string of questions and she cheerfully answered.
She has two children that she hasn't heard from in ten years or more. Five years ago her husband died. She had no income other than Social Security, and that's not even close to enough to live on in San Diego. She's been in San Diego for 50 years, after moving out here with her Navy dad. She lost her house, foreclosed for taxes and mortgage payment; she got almost nothing from the sale. She's been living on the streets in the three years since then.
And yet ... Alicia seems happy. It's amazing how resilient some people are. When I mentioned how surprising I found her cheerfulness, she said:
“I'm alive, aren't I? I still enjoy sunsets and the birds, and I have enough to eat. That's a lot more than some people have!”Alicia gets my quote of the day. I don't think anyone's going to top it.
I let her off at the 24 hour McDonald's off Mira Mesa Blvd, and bought her some breakfast. I got a hug before she trudged off toward where she believed the shelter was, happily slurping her coffee and munching on her breakfast burrito.
Happy trails, Alicia. I'll think of you at sunset today...