Every 6 months or so, our front doorbell rings and I open the door to see a familiar face smiling at me. It’s Bri-Ana collecting money for the United States Mission, a charity that helps homeless people get off the streets and into work. Bri-Ana, a stocky transgender Filipina whose about the same age as me, had been homeless herself. However, thanks in part to the same organization, she had managed to find work and a place to live, and every year before Easter and Thanksgiving, she works for the Mission raising money to pay for hot Holiday meals to feed the homeless. I have tried to give her some money each time she has come, but I have never been terribly generous. This is in part because my husband David and I prefer to give to more established charities and also because I have been stung a couple of times giving money to people who come to our doors soliciting for a “good cause,” in particular people selling magazine subscriptions.
The last time Bri-Ana came by, she told me she was not getting along with the people at Mission, had lost her main job and was scared she might end up on the streets again. I wasn’t sure what to believe, and it was at a time when we couldn’t spare much cash, so I gave her a small amount (much less than she needed, for sure) and wished her the best. I felt bad that I hadn’t been able (or willing) to do more and wasn’t sure I’d see her again. Today, when she came by, she was upbeat and explained that life was much better again. She is currently washing dishes in a Filipino restaurant and knocking on doors for the Mission again, but “on her terms” now. I was pleased to see that she had turned things around again and we chatted for a while. She asked how my son Theo was doing (she calls him “Hollywood,” because once when she’d stopped by he’d come to the door wearing black sunglasses) and encouraged me to come and visit the restaurant where she’s working. When I went inside to get my checkbook so I could write a check for the Mission, I grabbed a brown fluffy scarf I’d been wearing a lot lately and brought it outside with me. She likes to wear glitzy jewelry with her earth-tone casual wear, so I thought she might like the slightly glam look of the scarf. When I offered her the scarf, she thanked me enthusiastically, adding that she loves brown. We said our goodbyes and gave each other a hug. As she made her way down our front steps, she wrapped the scarf around her neck, flicked it over her shoulder, and then turned and shouted, “And say hello to ‘Hollywood’ from me!”