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Archive for April, 2012

There is a deaf and homeless woman living on the outskirts of St. Louis, and she is trying to get to High Ridge. She lost touch with her childhood friends up north a long time ago. She is estranged from her alcoholic husband. She left her car by the side of the road when it broke down because she couldn’t afford repairs. But she is convinced that help is just 30 miles away, in the city of High Ridge.

She has been told that somewhere in a public library in High Ridge, there is a woman who can look up your relatives on a computer, print certified state documents for you, and reconnect you with a support network of friends from your past. If only you can reach her.

But it isn’t easy for a homeless woman to get to High Ridge from the outskirts of St. Louis. No public transportation goes there. It isn’t safe to walk. And cab fare one way is more than $60.

If you meet her, she will tell you her life story and ask for help–use of your computer, a ride to High Ridge, or money to help get her there. And in exchange she will give you Xeroxed sheets of sign language letters and vocabulary.

She compulsively wraps all kinds of things in tissue paper–maybe for decoration; maybe as protection. She pushes her worldly belongings around in a stolen shopping cart, overfilled with blankets, empty water bottles, toiletries, Butterfingers, and seemingly useless objects that she finds along the road. Even the homeless struggle with clutter.

And she fills notebook after notebook with information to help in her quest for High Ridge, including the names of people she has met trying to get there. Names of strangers from across St. Louis and Missouri and the United States. People like you and me. These strangers are willing to help a little, but afraid to help too much, believing that the car has long ago been towed away and sold for scrap, that the friends and relatives up north do not really want to be reconnected,  that the librarian with the magic computer does not exist. And the only thing standing between the homeless woman and a realization of these bitter truths is a stretch of 30 miles.

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