Dorothy Smith surprised and blessed the heck out of my husband and me. Homeless since her mother died in Hurricane Katrina, Dorothy is without a doubt one of the most “at home” people that Mark and I have ever encountered.
We met Dorothy two weeks ago in New Orleans, the night of our second anniversary. After enjoying a celebratory meal of authentic Italian food in the French Quarter, we decided to take a stroll along the “Moon Walk,” the scenic walkway atop the levee that runs adjacent to the Mississippi River. We had just sat down on a bench to watch the ships pass by on the moonlit river when a large rat ran by, perching itself in the grass about ten feet away from us. When the rat peeked its head out from the green blades to look directly at us, I expressed my consternation that there were rats running around on the Moon Walk. On that note, Dorothy Smith plopped herself down right beside us.
“He’s just one of God’s creatures, and he needs to eat, just like everyone else,” Dorothy said with a knowing smile on her face that indicated her personal familiarity with the river rodents. Within minutes, we were engaged in a full-blown conversation with Dorothy, and I had a feeling that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Nope. It was clear we were over the rainbow.
Dorothy shared that had been a school bus driver for many years, and had lived with her mother until the waters of Katrina “swept Mama away.” Katrina left her Mama dead, and Dorothy, severely traumatized by the tragedy, began to have “delusions.”
“Mama was all I had, and I’ve been on the street ever since,” Dorothy shared openly. “But I don’t want for nothing, because the blood of Jesus covers me and God takes care of me,” she said with deep conviction.
We asked Dorothy where she sleeps at night, and she told us she stays mostly at “Camp Katrina” on Congress Street, “where Ms. Rose gives us homeless people a bed, a shower and a hot meal. I need thirty five dollars to stay there for three days,” she said without a hint of suggestion in her voice.
“And you know what? God always sends an angel to give me the money.”
Minutes later, Mark took his wallet out to offer help—only to learn that it had in it exactly the thirty-five dollars that Dorothy needed to secure a bed and food for the next three nights. Dorothy asked if we could give her a ride back to Camp Katrina, and we were happy to comply. Though I wouldn’t normally allow a stranger into our car, especially in the French Quarter, there was something about Dorothy that spoke of real goodness. I knew there was nothing to fear.
“Mama raised me in the Church and taught me to love God,” she disclosed as we rode through the dark streets at ten o’clock at night. “Most days, I sit in St. Louis Cathedral for hours on end praying,” she continued. “I know God will take care of me,” she said smiling as she exited the car. “He always does.”
Dorothy thanked us graciously as she stepped onto the street in front of Camp Katrina, returning to the only place on earth she can remotely call home. But it was obvious that Dorothy knows she has another home—a home that can be counted on to last, come what may.
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).