A homeless girl sat begging for alms at the same spot for two years, ìgnored by people until a wise woman stopped to ask why.
Zola Matthews was famous in her town, but not for a good reason. She was a weird girl who sat at the town square all day long with her bowl set in front of her and a straw hat perched atop her head.
She was different from all the other beggars in the town because of her unique behavior. Zola seemed to be a child trapped in a girl’s body, and it showed in the way she lived.
First, she had a high-pitched voice which she rarely used whether she was emotional or not, and second,
her thought process was very similar to a little girl’s.
People mostly just ignored her whenever they came across her; if she was lucky, they would drop some change for her out of pity, and if not, they would scorn her for being in such a position.
If she was particularly hungry and desperate enough, she would call out to the passing strangers.
“Please leave me some money to get rid of my hunger,” she would say, but most people were content to pretend like she did not just call out to them.
So Zola sat out there with her bowl and straw hat in the same place for two years. No matter the weather, scorching sun or pouring rain. When it got too cold, she would often wander around until she found shelter anywhere that could contain her.
The locals thought someone needed to do something about her, but they walked by her each day, occasionally dropping money into her bowl. This went on until a woman named Rebecca Simmons stopped one day.
It had been on a hot afternoon, and Zola had tilted her hat forward to cover her face while she dozed, so she had not seen Rebecca approach. It took her noisily clearing her throat to wake Zola.
“Hi,” Rebecca said with a wave as soon as Zola opened her eyes.
“Hallo,” Zola said, looking befuddled. She was used to getting ignored, so this was a surprise.
“What are you doing on the streets?” Rebecca asked.
“I don’t have a place to rest my head at night,” Zola said after a short pause.
“Why do you always sit here at the same spot? And why don’t you move with other beggars?” Rebecca asked.
The girl’s eyes flooded with tears. “This is the place where I last saw my mom,” she whispered.
Zola had just clocked eight when she was abandoned by her mother, Mary Matthews, because the woman knew she could not afford to raise her anymore.
She had simply left her there and went on her merry way, but the girl had waited in the hopes that the woman would come back for her. She didn’t.
Zola’s sad story moved Rebecca, and it left an impression on her as she walked home. She even discussed it with her husband, Jim.
“You know that beggar girl that stays at the town square? I spoke to her today,” she told him as they lay in bed getting ready to sleep.
“I remember her, she’s been there for years now hasn’t she?” he asked after stifling a yawn.
“Yes, her mother left her there and she has been on her own ever since. She is a bit backwards too — like a girl with a child’s behavior.”
“I’m not sure why we’re talking about her right now,” Jim said as he fought off sleep.
“It’ll be winter soon, I wonder how she’ll fare,” his wife replied.
From then on, Rebecca started visiting Zola every lunchtime, and as the winter drew closer, she became worried about the girl’s health.
She spoke to her husband, begging for them to take her in during the winter. He agreed hesitantly, so Zola joined them whenever she was hungry or wanted to keep warm.
With time, Zola started living with the Simmons. She helped with their housework and ran errands. Eventually, she also got a job in the store where Rebecca worked.
A week later, news spread about Rebecca’s good deed. Many regretted not helping the girl as Rebecca did, and that guilt pushed them to make amends. Soon, people from all over town were raising money and helping as much as they could.
But that’s not the only thing Rebecca’s act of kindness led to. The sheriff’s office also contributed by helping Zola track down her mother, who they later found.
Mother and daughter reunited at the Simmons’ house, and Zola was so happy to see her mother again. “Mother!” she exclaimed, running into her arms and weeping happily.
“I’m sorry I had to give you up,” Mary explained to her daughter, tears running down her cheeks. “I had no means to raise you anymore and I had my whole life ahead of me.”
Rebecca fumed at the woman who in turn gave her a smile and thanked her. “Thank you for helping my child, Mrs. Simmons. I will be forever grateful,” she told Rebecca.
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Zola forgave her mother and she left with her that day. They were able to make a good life for themselves, thanks to the contributions from the people Rebecca influenced.
What did we learn from this story?
Forgiveness is important. Zola was abandoned by her mother, and she had to spend years alone begging on the streets to survive until Rebecca intervened. When she finally met her mother again, the little girl immediately forgave her, rather than let what happened drive a wedge between them. It made things easier for her mother, who had abandoned her out of necessity, to forgive herself.
Do what good you can; you don’t know who is watching. When Rebecca decided to help Zola, she was not hoping to receive any accolades or gifts. She simply wished to help the girl live better, but that step ended up starting a campaign that saw people join hands to provide things for her.