I am ending the year with a collage of faces that are unexpected and which affect me deeply. Laura is a large woman, probably forty five, no coat, trudging down Hwy 27 on her way north. She has mental illness, and religious delusions. A voice has instructed her to 'go north.' Very bad advice, considering the weather. So she lumbers north on the highway, with no destination in mind and no resource. There is no warm home waiting for her, no friend wondering where she is (apparently - I hope I am wrong.) She cries and mumbles prayers as she goes.
Ashley is 25. She has two young children, ages 2 and 4. Two weeks ago her husband beat her so severely that she has been crippled in her back, tense with pain. She too is trudging up Hwy 27 without a coat. She says she is going to Georgetown, stubbornly making her own way - she will walk. She is carrying a small square box that contains a carton of cigarettes and a few personal affects. Her mother is stoned on drugs and has just kicked her out of the house, her last refuge upon release from the hospital. She does not have the health insurance to pay for her needed surgery. Christmas has been hell. The children are with their grandfather. She is also crying. She prays every night in desperation.
And then there is the woman who cuts hair, today with too few customers and too much debt. She wears a brave and positive face, but has spent Christmas at war with her second ex husband who attacked her in November. They have been to court already, without much sympathy from the judge. She has just read The Shack. She wonders if she could know a God like that who would not judge her. God - or maybe a man - this is what she needs. She has signed up on a dating site and is choosing her profile picture.
This is my town, 2011.