My wife wanted me to wake her up early this morning even though we were up late with a late-night counseling session. When she mentioned that the early wake-up call was because she is intending to wash her hair this morning, I questioned that. I questioned the need for that since I knew she had a hair appointment tomorrow and she would obviously be getting her hair washed then.
I then had it explained to me that skipping today was out of the question, since it would be Day 3 of not washing her hair and three days was totally unacceptable. When I tried to reason with her that one more day certainly couldn’t hurt and it might be worth it for the extra hour’s sleep, I was hit with the following scenario.
Should she get into an accident on the way to getting her hair done, she would be going to the hospital with — God forbid — Day 4 dirty hair, and should she sustain a blow to the head, it could be days before she would ever be able to wash her hair again, not to mention the indignity of being discovered by the medical staff with her hair in an unacceptable condition. I immediately imagined Marti being rushed to the hospital with paramedics whispering in the back of the ambulance, “Would you believe this woman’s hair? I bet it’s been four days since she washed it! How awful!”
I kid you not. This is exactly what she laid out for me and when I chuckled at this, she said, “You think I’m kidding, don’t you? I’m not. I’m dead serious.” And then I believed her. I believed her because I remembered a similar situation years ago when we were traveling and she ran out of clean underwear, which created a national crisis should we get into an accident and the emergency personnel would cut away her clothes and discover — oh my — that she was trying to stretch another day out of her undergarments.
If this is right, and Marti isn’t the only woman who feels this way, then think for a minute about a homeless woman on Week 3 of unwashed hair or dirty underwear and imagine the indignity. It really all has to do with basic human dignity.
This explains why Marti’s concern for homeless women is to provide them with showers and toiletries — and nice ones, at that. Not the cheapest drug store variety of cosmetics. And if you remember, with the women at Isaiah House, that’s exactly what many of you made possible.
Headlines for today’s Los Angeles Times include new figures that put the city’s tab for caring for the homeless near the $2 billion mark over the next 10 years. Hopefully some of that will include the types of things we’re talking about here.
Homeless people are not all toothless derelicts with mental disorders. Most of them are ordinary people like you and me who are missing the basic necessities of life that sustain one’s sense of worth and well-being. You might not be able to provide a home for someone, but a few packets of lipstick or toiletries in your car could help make a woman feel a little more human. And isn’t that the way we want to treat everybody?