She was such a tiny woman, even from my child-sized estimation. Josie had beautiful, ancient Native American skin that was more wrinkled than any other skin I had ever seen. She wore her long brown hair (sprinkled with gray) in braids, and wore glasses that were almost always askew. Somehow she had lost one of her eyes, and the empty socket was a bit of a shock, although I was well used to it. She was usually a quiet woman, unless you tried to sit in her far-left-end seat in the third row at church. If you sat there (accidentally or on purpose), you just might feel the impact of her purse hitting you upside the head.

Josie was one of the elderly women my dad picked up for church every Sunday morning and Sunday night, although we lived just across the street from the church.

It was nearing Christmas time, and our family had put together some extra food and simple supplies for our elder friends. We went around town dropping off the gift boxes and singing some Christmas carols. When we reached Josie’s home, I remember feeling so shocked at the sight, although I’d seen it many times. She lived in a shack of sorts, on the edge of town. I remember wondering how she could live in a place so small and run down.

For the first time in my memory, my sister and I were able to go into her home as we carried in the gifts. She was thrilled with our packages and shuffled around in men’s tube socks, slippers, and her ever-present simple cotton dress, covered in a tattered blue sweater. The inside of her small home was cold, and my mom asked her if she was staying warm enough.

She never complained about her squalid conditions, ever thankful for the trustee her husband had put over her care before he passed away. But we found out later that the trustee was taking advantage of her, and was only spending the least amount he could to keep her alive. Although there was nothing legally we could do to help her, we just continued to love her and do what we could.

From a young age, I was taught that helping is not just a good thing to do to bless others, but it also blesses the giver in the process. My little life was enriched by rubbing shoulders with amazing people who were thrilled when we called them Grandma and Grandpa, but with whom there was no earthly bond but love.