Purple dress, way too short. She was pulling it down self consciously as it rode up around her rear. White jacket. Bare legs. Shivering in the drizzly November morning. She was in a weird place - hanging out at the end of the drive through - and was definitely out of it. She was most likely high, and most likely working.
I didn't want to stare, so I looked away. And then something in me told me to stop. Everything I've been paying attention to and learning lately flooded into my mind at once. Trafficking. Prostitution. Slavery. Addiction. Theft of dignity. Brokenness. Loss.
I rolled down my window and told her that she looked cold, would she like a coffee. She asked for a muffin, too, and assured me it would be the same price. I told her of course and swung around into a parking spot to walk in with her.
She started telling me about how she had been hoping to ask somebody for a dollar so she could get some food. She wasn't from around here - she said she'd just gotten in from Edmonton and was her to try to get straight. She was waiting for her methadone and trying to get into detox.
"I just want to get straight," she told me, over and over.
I bought her breakfast and we chatted some more. I told her about a drug and alcohol treatment program I knew of here in the city, and wrote it down for her. I told her it would take courage to get straight, but that she had it in her. I told her I would pray for her, for God to give her strength. And then when she had her food, I asked her name.
I couldn't stay with her while she ate - though I regret that I didn't. I shook her hand and squeezed her arm, and told her to be well. I noticed that she looked young, but her hands were hard. Dry, and rough - so much older than the rest of her.
I prayed for her all the rest of the way to school. And as I prayed, I wondered about her story. Where had she come from? Would she get clean? Was she trafficked? Would she get into detox? What does she believe about herself?
As I drove, my heart broke. She's been on my mind heavily for the last two days. As I think of her, as I pray for her, it's her name that gives me hope.
A pearl is a thing of great beauty and worth, but it's formed through difficulty and adversity. When something that doesn't belong is introduced into it's shell, it's the oyster's healing process that creates this beautiful pearl.
Beautiful Pearl. You are so precious. You have such worth. I don't know if you know it now, but I pray that you discover who you truly are: a beloved child of God. I pray that you're serious about getting clean. I don't know if you are 'owned' but I pray you will find freedom from bondage and from fear. I don't know what demons you will have to face, but I pray you find people who will help you face them, and together you will find healing. What a perfect name for you. I hope your name becomes your story.
"Be well," I told her as we parted ways.
"You too. I know we'll meet again."
I hope we do.
If you're interested in learning more about the human trafficking that happens right here in our backyard, I would highly recommend the film Avenue Zero. The trailer is here: