It was late night. We were headed back from uptown when we saw a woman walking down Johnston Road. She was tugging a luggage cart with what appeared to be a suitcase and other items in strapped on. She wore a reflective vest. Vera said–in her emphatic and empathic voice–“We have to see if she needs help!” I was already headed for the next U-turn. As we pulled over near the Ballantyne Country Club, I got out of the car and approached the traveler. She didn’t appear too concerned or at threatened by my approach.
I introduced my self and she said, “Hello, my name is May.”
May is homeless—by choice. She said she was in North Carolina for a time and eventually headed for Baltimore. Vee got out of the car once she knew it was safe. We chatted with May for a few moments. As I observed her broken down cart I asked if she would allow me to give her one that I had stored in my garage that might be easier to tow. She was immediately grateful and said, “Why, yes. Are you sure?” We agreed to meet in a few moments as she journeyed further north toward Harris Teeter or the even further to i485. I raced home and got the beach wagon/cart and headed back to Johnston Road.
We saw her tugging her cargo of belongings just under the 485 overpass. We made the turn and pulled over on the shoulder just ahead of her. Our new friend was a little surprised at our return. I pulled the cart out of the Subaru and we started re-packing her belongings in it. May and Vee moved some things around and tested it for ergonomics and road readiness. It was an instant hit. We chatted a bit longer about her plans to stay in a local mission and eventually head for Maryland. We wished her well, gave her some money for meals and whatever else she might need, exchanged hugs, and got in the car and drove away. We worried about her, but we were grateful to have perhaps done something nice for someone in need.
Fast forward two weeks and our trip to Oak Island. We were driving on Interstate 74 on the outskirts east of Monroe, NC. We were actually talking about May and wondering how she was doing. Not five minutes later, Vee yelled (and I do mean, YELLED), “Look, look. It’s her. It’s May!” We couldn’t believe it. There she was, almost 80 miles from where we first met her, on the opposite side of the highway, pulling her green wagon toward the city.
I made an immediate U-turn and found a parking lot in front of an appliance store just ahead of her trek. We both jumped out and approached her. She looked a little surprised until I enthusiastically said, “Maaaay…It’s Sean and Vera…your friends from a couple of weeks ago that gave you the cart.” Her face lit up with the most delightful smile.
We gleefully expressed our joy in the serendipity. She said she was on her way to the library and working on getting some of her belongings shipped to Baltimore ahead of her upcoming quest. A few more moments of chat, another offering of some spending money, another embrace, a photo, and we went our separate ways.
We got back in the car and exchanged smiles mixed with joy and hope. This was a special moment. A reminder that we may not be able to save the world (today), but we can add something good to it from time to time. We can make new friends in the most unlikely of circumstances and we can find them again.
Godspeed, May. I hope you get home soon. Otherwise, we might find you again another day.