I did something today that I don't typically do.

I pulled into the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Billings this morning a little after 5 AM and started to circle through our tiny parking lot. Of course, it was full. "No biggie", I thought, "I'll just find a spot to park on Montana Avenue."

As I started to edge my car back towards the street, a woman that I hadn't noticed earlier began waving her arms trying to get my attention. I thought maybe she was upset because I had unintentionally cut her off as she was walking down the sidewalk in the dark (I didn't). She was motioning me to roll down my window and I was preparing to apologize.

Michael Foth, TSM
Michael Foth, TSM

Working downtown, I'm familiar with transients.

It's not unusual to encounter a panhandler in Billings. I've been approached many, many times by strangers asking for a couple of bucks or if I have any smokes. I guess I just have that "sucker" look on my face because they always seem to go straight to me. Yeah, I know... "don't give them people money because they're just going to buy booze and drugs!!!" You're probably right and I honestly don't care. If I was living on the street, I would probably want to be drunk all day as well. But the gal that approached my rolled-down car window in the darkness early this morning wasn't asking for money. She wanted a ride.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
This is not the person. Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Where are we headed?

I laughed and politely declined, explaining to the middle-aged woman that I had to get to work. "Please?" she asked again, mentioning that the cold air was bad for her asthma. She didn't seem inebriated and I wasn't getting any bad vibes from her. I paused, sighed, and asked her how far she needed to go. She said it was not very far... like a 1/2 mile or so to the Southside.  For some reason I decided, "what the heck" and I told her to get in.

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She was polite on our short drive, mentioning that she really needs a place to live. She added that whoever was at the house she asked to be dropped off at was "just going to kick me out." I didn't pry. I have no idea why I chose to give that woman a ride at 5:30 in the morning. Most would consider it a reckless thing to do and I would certainly never encourage you to give random transients rides.

I hesitated to even write this story, but my hope is that maybe we can all learn to show a little more empathy toward our fellow humans. You don't have to give them rides, spare change, or cigarettes. But we can show kindness.

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