Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Woman at my Window

After a long and fruitful appointment with the new (to me) sleep doctor, I headed off to get something to eat, but I didn't really have a plan. I thought: Five Guys. No, too greasy. I know, Panera Bread. I headed to Panera Bread, came to a detour, missed a road, and ended up going back the way I had come. Okay, Five Guys it is. (And I only got a hamburger, not fries, so it wasn't greasy.)

When I came out of Five Guys and got in my car, a woman came up to my window. I started to groan and moan on the inside, and then I remembered that groaning person is not me, and that this is a real person at my window. So I listened.

She said she lives in a shelter, and she would like to be able to get something to eat. I had been planning to give her a protein bar, but at this point, being right outside Five Guys, I pulled out $8 and told her she could get a small hamburger and a drink with that, as that's what I had just gotten. She thanked me, put it in her purse, and started chatting. I started to groan inside (again! Yes, I'm human, folks). But I thought: I don't have to be anywhere at any particular time this afternoon and I can listen to a woman tell her story.

She had lost a small but nice apartment because it got burned during the riots. She said it wasn't just about police. Well-spoken, she described gentrification without actually naming it. She told me all about corporations coming into the city, buying up property, and building expensive apartments. She said many people don't realize it's going to hit them, too, eventually. She also said these corporations come in, and they don't hire local people who live in the area (black or white).

I wish I had had a tape recorder going, as it was fascinating, although it was heart breaking too. When she finished talking, I put my hand out the window to shake her hand and told her my first name. She looked so surprised, shook my hand, and told me her name too. She said she's writing her story, and she will put me in it. Then she walked into Five Guys, and I drove away, thinking about Matthew West's song, "Do Something".  I told Our Lord, "I don't know what you want me to do."  (You might notice that's not a direct question. I'm so afraid he's going to tell me one of these days.)

Really, it's so big, and I don't know what I can do. But there's a saying posted around here a lot (maybe where you are too), "If you see something, say something." Well, this is a different kind of "something" than the slogan has in mind, but I feel I need to say something, in whatever ways it comes to me.

But please understand that I'm not telling anyone to do what I do…what little I do. I know some people get defensive about the idea of giving money, and I usually say: I give food, not money. But recently, I've begun carrying a protein bar in a baggie with a folded paper towel and a couple dollars, so someone can get a bottle of water or soda. Today, I gave a lunch but I think the lunch was less important to her today than having someone to just listen. 

But we are each called differently in this world. Some give at the office…and yes, I mean that to sound cliché, and I don't really mean "give at the office", as in monetary contributions (though that's good too). I really mean many give of themselves at work: nursing and teaching and so many jobs; every honest job contributes well as parenting and caregiving, and so forth. 

But sometimes, what I can give is a smile or a listening ear; and it feels right. It doesn't feel like enough, but it feels right. 

Post Note the next day: I do think we need to exercise caution, think, and follow our intuition. I received an email today from someone who was feeling uneasy about a situation. Here are my comments on that.
On the Other Hand - The Woman who Needed Gas.


No comments: