My husband loves to go to the grocery store. I do not. However, my husband worked it out with the store manager that I can take as many magazines from the shelves as I choose to the café area and read them while he shops. That way my husband has the leisurely shopping experience he values and I find interesting ideas in all the craft and decorating magazines.
I recently accompanied my husband to the grocery store. As I walked to the magazine display, I looked to my left and saw a woman checking out at the self-service area. Even as I glanced at her, I thought That looks like Alice (named changed.) But I wasn’t sure so I took a few more steps, thinking I could just ignore the person. But then I thought, No, that is Alice…I think.
I walked over to the woman and said, “Alice?” She said, “Yes” and looked at me with a puzzled expression.
I said, “I’m Beth.”
Her face broke into a big grin which was followed by a big hug.
I first met Alice in the early 1990s while I was executive director at United Ministries. She was in a program that I began that required a woman to be two of these four things: homeless, pregnant, prostitute, and/or addict. Alice fit three of the categories. Through the years, Alice came in and out of United Ministries depending on whether her life was falling apart or not. She was dismissed from one program in the agency because she stole from it. She lived in a motel across the street from United Ministries until the building was torn down. United Ministries staff tried to help her find other housing but her intense drug usage made that impossible.
I lost track of Alice until one day when she and I happened to be in United Ministries’ lobby at the same time. We hugged and I learned of her vastly improved situation. She had gotten involved with Gateway House, a clubhouse model for people with mental illness. Now, a couple of years later when I saw her again in the grocery store and asked her what she was doing these days, she proudly said, “I’m at Gateway House. It’s been seven years now. That’s my home.”
What a delightful outcome for Alice. Some the women who were in that long ago program have since died. Others have ridden the roller coaster of addiction with its ups and downs. Others were able to turn their lives around.
Alice was the second of the women in that original group whom I’d seen that week. The first one, too, proudly shared where she was working. She looked beautiful to me. What a blessing to know that these two delightful people have been able to change their lives and are at now happy with who they’ve become!

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