An Underground Railroad

Georgetown Loop Railroad, Georgetown, CO (2010)

She was first in line. Like the paralyzed around the pool at Bethesda, she didn’t want to miss her chance for healing when the life-giving waters of prayer were stirred.

She’d traveled from near Madison, Wisconsin, to get freedom from back and leg pain, believing fully that the Great Physician would be able to do for her what no one else could. Her hope and her expectancy fit her name, Elizabeth. You know the Elizabeth of the gospels. She’s the older cousin of Mary, a woman who gave birth to the prophet John long after she figured motherhood was our of the question.

This Elizabeth at the front of the line is a beautiful young woman about half my age with a fresh face and long brown hair. Her large brown eyes and long lashes reminded me of a calf’s, their expression one of youthful energy and enthusiasm. In fact, she has the look of a stereotypical Midwestern farm girl. Wholesome, if we use that descriptor anymore.

Elizabeth is a pilates instructor, although her essential shape doesn’t suggest that. While her peers have been going to college and starting their lives, Elizabeth has followed a different path that was not her choice.

She was kicked out of her home when she was eighteen, but she didn’t protest. She’d had enough of living with a mentally ill parent. And for the past eight years Elizabeth has never had a place to call her own. For a period of time she found a way into small churches where she slept for several months. She stayed with one friend after another, but never too long lest she become a burden or irritant. She has lived in her car, finding ingenious places to shower or wash up. Just recently she found a place where she can stay for a while.

Although her body has absorbed the stress, she shows no anger or bitterness. She is proud to have survived and to have done so creatively. She’s happy with the work she does. She displays a contentment, as well as a maturity, that have and will continue to serve her well. She is a person with a lot of faith. You’d like Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s story is not unique, not even to her. She knows many others who travel along something of an underground railroad, young people filled with resolve who are on a long journey toward a better life and for whom there are few supports. But they find what they need, be it a room, a sofa, or a shower. They keep moving forward to freedom and a better life, one day at a time.

I thought you should know about Elizabeth.

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