I ran into Gloria today whom I first met as an addicted, homeless prostitute. I was thrilled to learn that she has been working the same job for nine years. She goes to church and is learning to teach Sunday School. She has her own apartment, her driver’s license, and a car. She has been off drugs since the early 1990s but admitted that she does drink wine on occasion. Gloria said that she sometimes runs into people she used to know in her old life. They’ll holler, “Hey, G-Baby!” Her response is, “G-Baby is dead. I’m getting right with the Lord.” Gloria is always a joy for me to talk with.
Below is an edited version of what I first wrote about her in the first chapter of Loving Our Neighbor.
“I met Gloria in the early 1990s. She was an addict and a prostitute. Her drug of choice was alcohol although she also used the hard stuff. Her addiction was so intense that she had to get up in the night to drink to maintain the alcohol level in her body. She actually believed she was called by God to be a prostitute. When I asked her how she figured that she said, ‘I got a legitimate job as a dishwasher. One day I was leaning over the sink washing dishes, and the boss man came up behind me. He leaned into me and whispered that I didn’t have to keep scrubbing those pots. I could come into his office and take care of him. I decided that even though I had tried to do right, I was still treated as a prostitute. I figured that must be what God wanted me to do.’
Eventually Gloria was, as she reports it, delivered by God from her addiction. She left prostitution and got a job in a franchise restaurant. After two years there, she was earning less than $7.00 an hour with no benefits. She got hurt on the job, but the company refused to file workers’ compensation on her. Eventually three different attorneys were able to get her what was rightfully hers. By then the damage in her back was so severe that she required several back surgeries and a hip replacement. Today Gloria is a graduate of a culinary school.
Gloria regularly acknowledges that she is who she is now because God and other people care about her. She feels rich not because of material possessions but because of God’s goodness in her life. One of the realities I have witnessed among people with whom I work is the deep and abiding thankfulness they articulate to Jesus no matter what is going on in their lives. They may be down to their last dollar but they will share that dollar with someone who is needier than they. They may tell of tragedy heaped on tragedy and still be full of praise for their heavenly Father. I am humbled by the obvious and verbal acknowledgment of their dependence on God rather on things material.
When we choose to be in relationships with women such as Gloria, we choose to honor the gifts she exhibits. We acknowledge that we do not know what it feels like to live in her skin, to have experienced the things of her life, or to know the best solutions for next steps. We know we care and that we’re willing to walk alongside her, learning from her as she learns from us.”
Seeing Gloria made it a VERY SPECIAL day!!!
Loving Our Neighbor–A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty is available at iUniverse and at on-line retailers. Locally, it is available at Ten Thousand Villages on Main Street and at Fiction Addiction.