It isn’t everyday I get approached by a young woman in the supermarket, especially when I’m sporting three days worth of stubble, with a touch of gray, but this was a Thursday.
I saw her as she turned down my aisle. I was looking for some waffle mix and glanced up as I saw her turn the corner. She looked like a skinny preteen in a yellow halter-top and white shorts. Other than basic awareness that she was walking down my aisle, I paid her little mind.
“Excuse me sir,” she said in a sad voice. She had stopped right beside me.
Due to years of training on situational awareness, or maybe an innate paranoia, I am normally very observant of my surroundings. I didn’t realize she had stopped until she spoke to me. I paused my comparison of Bisquick and Krusteaz and looked up at her.
“Sorry to trouble you, but you wouldn’t be willing to give me some money for a hotel room would you?” she asked. She hesitated for moment after the request.
In that moment I took a good look at the human being in front of me. She was average build and thin with long spindly legs like a bird. She had the face of someone in their late twenties and the body of an early teenager. Her face had no remnants of makeup and she looked a bit haggard even though she was trying to smile. Her hair was up in a ponytail and frizzed out like she had just jumped out of bed and pulled it back away from her hollow eyes. She wore a yellow halter-top with her bra straps showing, but based on her figure, the straps weren’t working too hard. She wore white shorts and flip-flops. In her right hand she held a large Styrofoam cup, apparently with soda still in it. She had a medium size purse in the crook of her left arm. She looked like a forlorn waif, a veritable Thursday’s Child personified.
She continued with a voice pleading and soft, “I need some money for a hotel room because I was traveling with a friend, and she stole all of my money, over $1200. You wouldn’t be able to spare some money so I can get a room for the night would you?”
I wanted to give her some money. I don’t like turning away anyone in need, especially a woman. All that is good in me wanted to help, and the pity I felt jumped up in my throat. Here is one of God’s children in need. Help her! Cried the voice in my head.
Another voice was talking in my head as well. Careful! This one is trouble. Nothing is as it seems. See the nice purse. See the soda from recent meal. Look at her eyes. Beware the nature of the thing she asks for.
Caution won out and I smiled and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t.”
“Okay, thanks,” she said without any apparent rancor and continued down the aisle.
Guilt-ridden, I turned away and stared at the boxes in front of me covered with bright colored pictures of delicious waffles and pancakes topped with strawberries and blueberries and smothered with hot syrup. My stomach turned when I thought about her condition.
I called out to her before she got too far. “Do you need any food?” I asked.
She stopped, turned halfway around, and finished taking a sip from her drink. “No, another gentleman bought me lunch.”
I nodded. She turned and continued. Thursday’s Child has far to go.
I stared at the shelves of packaged food in front of me trying to make sense of what had just happened, a conflict raging inside of me.
I should have given her money. Didn’t you see how skinny she was?
You idiot she was playing you. Didn’t you see the hard look of a druggie on her face?
Who cares? She needed money and I could have spared a five spot.
You would have just enabled her. She needs a different kind of help.
I could have at least gone to the hotel and paid for the room for her.
Fool! That is probably what she wanted anyway. She was soliciting you, you moron!
Oh my gosh! She must really be in trouble. Maybe she’s a runaway. I have to find her and see if I can help her. Maybe I can get her the help she really needs.
Now you’re talking.
I searched the store – nothing. I quickly checked out and searched the parking lot – gone.
My encounter with Thursday’s Child haunted me. I wondered how far she had come to get to her desperate condition. Even more, I wondered how far she had to go.
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.
(Old Nursery Rhyme, Author Unknown)