To say that Angie was not a pleasant person, is the kindest euphemism I can muster. Let me just say, when her body was found dead of murder, no one was surprised, and there was a long list of people with possible motive. Yet we considered it a joy to serve her a hot nutritious meal in the park, rain or shine, once a week for about fifteen years. I think she died around 2007.
Angie loved to tease people. That is an understatement; it was more that she liked to torment people. She wanted to tease and provoke until blood was boiling. She positively delighted in making other people angry. She was proud of being a Native American “squaw”. She was always bundled up and totally covered, even when the weather didn’t call for it. She always had some scam going. She would give one of the volunteers some tea or some special lip balm. The next week they were informed they owed her $10 or more; and, by the way, she had the rest of their order now. She didn’t care whether she was picking on children or adults. She could be relentless.
One time I brought venison stew down to the Love Park from a roadkill deer that Alex Smerkanich had picked up while it was still twitching alongside of the 309. A coworker and I butchered it after work. I just left the ribs long. I roasted them and served them as an added bonus to those who wanted them. Many of the people were puzzled as to what kind of animal these bones came from. I let them know it was deer. They asked where it came from. I told them. Angie was off to the races! And she didn’t stop until she died. She was constantly after me about sweeping pigeons off the pavement, running down squirrels, etc., to put roadkill in the soup. It frustrated her that I never got angry with her over this.
One night, the entire McGraw family, all eleven of them, came down in their short bus to help serve. They even brought along their three-legged Great Dane. After we were done serving, they got the dog out for a little social time and walk in the park. Angie saw this dog and exclaimed, “What happened to that poor dog’s leg?!” Sweet little Elisa McGraw, who had never uttered a word down there before, immediately replied, “We put it in the soup!” We were all surprised. It sure shut up Angie.
I have painted a terrible picture of Angie, but I recall tender moments, as well, and times when she apologized with tears and said thank you. It is hard to imagine what torments she must have suffered to have built such terrible defenses for her psyche. We all start life with great potential and aspiration. No one looks at a little baby and envisions a bitter, contentious, homeless lady leaving conflict in her wake. Who and what did this to her? Why did it happen to her and not to me? When we start to ask these questions, we are starting down the path of understanding what Paul of Tarsus was saying when he said we should each look at ourselves as the worst sinner ever. (1 Tim. 15) This puts Jesus words, “Judge not”, to the test. People do what they feel they need to do to cope. We rationalize our own behavior. At the time, in the moment, our behavior, no matter how bizarre or hurtful, always seems rational. And we’ve done some pretty stupid, bizarre and hurtful stuff in our lives, no? Everyone you see is fighting a great battle. They haven’t had the same advantages, perspectives and privileges as we have.
As ornery as Angie was, we still looked forward to seeing her as part of the mix on the nights we would serve. I still remember her gruff laugh. I didn’t mind being the butt of her jokes. I could play along, if it kept her from picking on someone else. I just wasn’t raised to throw people away. And people she was!
Let us be kind.