Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 04/16/2017

The face of God in disguise at Panera, on a Saturday morning

693795We moved last July to a Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood called Brookside. It’s in walking distance to just about anything you might need. Groceries, dry cleaner, about ten restaurants, and some one-of-a-kind retail stores. This morning Wood and I walked over there and stopped in Panera for a quick breakfast, before we hit the Brookside Farmer’s Market.

We sat at a table by the big window that looks out onto the street. Front row people watching. I glanced around the restaurant, and directly across from us, in a booth, sat a young woman who had all the trappings of someone who is homeless. Two backpacks. Blue jeans that were way too big. Boots. A way too-large green windbreaker. Her strawberry blond hair was braided. And she was hunched over. Really hunched over. Almost as though the world had slapped her once too often.

I looked at Wood, tears welling in my eyes. He said, “Go ahead.” He knew.

Without saying one word, he knew. I pulled some money out of my wallet….looked at Wood and amidst the tears said, “That could be one of our daughters.”

It isn’t. But it could be.

I approached. Placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “Here…this is for you” as I handed her the money. She looked up and mouthed, “Thank you. Thank you.” I asked her if she was okay. She said yes, even after I asked her if she was sure.

And I walked back to my table. And I made eye contact with an elderly couple who I had seen whispering about her, and now looked at me as though I was perpetuating homelessness and any other scourge.

This is someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister. She was someone’s student once upon a time. Someone’s friend. She is someone. Her life got run into the ditch. I don’t know why.   I don’t know how or when. But it really doesn’t matter.

I don’t believe in just throwing money at stuff to make the world better. I have fed the homeless in their camps. Distributed socks, mosquito spray, soap.

Ironically, this wasn’t a feel-good moment. I’ve thought about her all afternoon. Wishing her Godspeed on her journey, wherever it takes her.

“Whenever I meet someone in need, it is really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.” –Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta



  1. What a LOVELY STORY!!!! I have missed your writing.
    Carol Odasso.

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