What if poverty made life embarrassing, inconvenient, and dangerous? My friend Donna knows the answer to this question. Sitting on the sidewalk eating pasta and salad, we chat about the weather and our dogs. Because of social distancing and business closures, downtown is quiet. The street feels like our living room, familiar and intimate. Donna likes the meal and thanks me profusely. She’s an artist and gives me one of her paintings in appreciation. She tells me a few times that she’s having female problems. It takes me a while to realize that she is talking about menstruation. After an hour of eating and chatting, she provides me with gracious clarity, “Outreach workers hardly ever have tampons and it’s embarrassing to ask.” We arrange to meet at the drug store in two hours.
Later that night, Donna, her dog, and her boyfriend are in front of Rite Aid. A friend of mine has given me some money to help people in need. I also have a pair of work boots in my car that I promised her boyfriend a few months ago. He goes to my car with the dog and my co-worker Ben. Donna and I go to the feminine hygiene section. As we look for tampons, Donna tells me all about her fear of being murdered. She’s involved in prostitution and believes she’s being followed by a drug cartel. She regrets talking to the police and worries she will disappear like her friend. She’s pretty frenzied, and I have no idea how to respond. I offer to help her talk with the police if she feels threatened or connect her to a shelter that helps women fleeing abuse. She knows all the resources and doesn’t trust them. After she picks the cheapest box of tampons, we pray. We bow our heads and I let a third-level-open-heaven prayer of protection loose. We pray against paranoia and violence. We thank God that nothing can separate us from his love. We have church in Rite Aid! She thanks me for the prayer and tells me that she prays all the time for everything. We hug and I think God will protect us from the coronavirus. The Rite Aid staff are irritated and are trying to close the store. I ask Donna if she wants a Snickers bar. They are two for three dollars, and they’re the jumbo size! She’s confused at the offer of candy and says thanks. I guess I’m trying to make buying tampons fun. We meet up with her family out in front of the store and Donna asks me if I want one of the Snickers bars. “Let joy be your continual feast. Make your life a prayer. And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 6:16-18, TPT).”