Bonnie is 68. She lives on Social Security. We met at a McDonald's.
I heard "Hey, how are you?" from across the dining room. Silver hair back in a ponytail, black shirt and sweatpants, she smiled the same as she always has. I then hear a bellow bouncing toward me: "Where the hell you been?"
Bonnie has a spirit. She sleeps in shelters, on couches, and "I've been known to take a nap on a bench, or stay in a garage or two." She lets out a laugh like a bird, a tiny laugh that would be more familiar had it come from the mouth of a child.
We spoke about how she's been. We've crossed each other's paths a few times over the last twenty years. She's held a variety of jobs, "and I was this close to getting on with WalMart, but they never called back." Bonnie has one eye, keeps a patch over the other, and has three fingers on her left hand. She was hit by a car in 2014 and spent two months in a hospital recuperating. She is ineligible for disability.
Yet speaking with her, you'd think she just won the lottery.
"I've become fully accepting of my circumstances, continuing to put one foot in front of the other. I have a little money coming in, not a lot mind you, but enough to keep myself fed. I have soap, I can wash my clothes, and my legs work. I see people, we talk, and I read. I get books from the library, have my dollar reading glasses. I sing at night, and that keeps me from getting too lonely."
Another smile came to her face. "I think if we're alive, we owe it to ourselves to be of good humor. Have faith. Keep moving. I think The Almighty just rolls his eyes if we take ourselves so damned seriously, looking at things with such a negative, wispy cast on them. We have to look at each moment as a gift. I haven't bathed in three days, but I don't stink that badly, do I?" I told her she didn't stink from where I sat, so that was something, and we both laughed.
"See?" Bonnie kept laughing. "Somebody walked past me yesterday in Starbucks. Two women, well dressed, and I could hear one of them say, "Wow, now that one really hit bottom." I just smiled and nodded. Know why?"
No, I said, Why?
"Because there is no bottom. No such thing, unless you think there is. Look at all I have around me," and she waved her arm around an empty McDonald's. "Some money, working legs, in an air conditioned building, breathing...my God, what else is there?"
Some would think quite a bit, I said. "Maybe. But if my eyes are open, it's just the gratitude and love it your heart that determines on what level of humanity you rest upon. And that place is set by seeing all the wonder around you and breathing a great big "Thank You." I think it is an insult to all those that have gone before me not to be thankful for every minute. I see good in everything. I've learned to do that, mind you." She drank the last of her coffee, and got straight up.
"But I do it, and I'm so thankful you stopped by to see me."
I drove her to the Transit Center. "Gonna see my friend at the homeless shelter. She's depressed. Not me, though, so I bring her a good vibe. Works, you know?"
And as she got on the train, she waved through the window. I could see her smile and nod a the conductor as he took her ticket.
As the train pulled away, I felt so lucky to have known such an incredible woman.