Recently, I had an interaction that really changed the way that I look at things. The original post regarding this was on Facebook but I did not go into detail like I will do now. Social media is for short messages, which is why I like it. However, I love writing so I decided to take this piece and give it the detail that it deserves:
November 23, 2015 at 4:00 pm
She was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, feet sprawled out in front of her on a snowy patch of ice. You could see the detail of the distress on her face. Her eyes were glassy with tears and her face was pained. I just got new glasses. I thought she fell and was going to attempt to work the homeowner over by suing him. I rolled my eyes and drove by and others drove by too. I went on about my work which was at a house two blocks down from my office.
Ten minutes later after being agitated because I had to spread salt on the sidewalk, I went to a house in my neighborhood that I thought was a friend of mine’s.
I needed some trash removal and finding good help has been a problem. I went to the wrong house but the resident told me my friend died a month ago. It was the oddest thing to realize that someone who was such a big help to the community was gone. Ray’s Trash Pickup is no longer in existence. I had a deep sense of sadness. I would wave at him each time he passed by and stopped at the corner. He would always make a full stop at the stop sign. That was a sign that the person actually lived in the neighborhood and respected the meaning of a stop sign. Could anything be more odd this day?
I had just picked my daughter up from school and I had just had one shock. Wow, Ray is dead. I drove back down the same street readying myself to take a trip to the grocery store and asked my daughter to start making a list. The same street I would always see Ray driving down.
I was on a mission, I would deal with my grief later. I did not like to waste time in stores and besides, I had to finish the newspaper a day early because of Thanksgiving.
I saw her from two blocks away still sitting in my residential neighborhood on the sidewalk like a doll propped up waiting for someone to pick it up. I really did tell myself to drive by because I had done so much this week and I was in a hurry. Why not? While I was taking my time getting up the street, there was a black truck showing intermittent brake lights. They pulsed “stopping”, “not stopping” “stopping”… I was hoping that they would stop so that I could go about my day. I had done my good deeds for the week I thought.
But the closer I got, I felt compelled to stop. The other side of my brain said, "No one will know if you do not stop.”
Then I remembered that I too had many days when I wished that someone would have stopped for me.
I quickly turned the corner and rolled down my window. I asked her if she was all right. I fully expected her to say that she slipped on the ice and fell. She did not.
She whimpered, "I have lost my way and I am cold." Her face was reddened by substance and not so much from the cold.
I looked around, thinking that this is not happening. But it was, her hands were clenched tight, her nails were long and dirty, she smelled like she had not bathed but I picked her up under the arms and steadied her to her feet. I asked her if she had identification and she did not. I asked her how did she end up over here? She seemed just as confused as I was. She was so heavy that we both almost went down. As I got her up, she began to cry... the homeowner was coming around the corner as I was walking her to my truck. I briefly explained just in case I was being taken. I told Anissa to get in the back seat and helped her into my truck. By now tears were streaming down her face. I gave her some gloves.
She said,"It is so warm in here.”
I smiled and told her that if it took all night I would get her home.
Her conversation was very fragmented. I could see the damage that alcohol had taken on her. I realized though that there was more to the story. There is always more to the story.
I inquired, "Where do you live?”
She gave me an address and it was the wrong one. She was very lost and so were we. I just talked to her about her family and conversed with her like an old friend. I could see something in the way her eyes lit up that she missed them. Compassion had grasped me by the throat.
She told me that she had schizophrenia and she was bipolar. I see. I saw. I told her she should take better care of herself. Her "friend" left her in a strange neighborhood. The one who "belittles me" she called her. I told her that is not a friend. Your friends love you and would never hurt you. I rode over to an Eastside neighborhood I had never been to before. I assured her that she was not putting me out of my way. She showed me a gold elastic band with a little gold ribbon bow attached was a key. However, there was not a house to match the number. Numbers flew out of her head. I went to color of the house. Porch? Kids? Stores? We rode down the street and she said this is familiar…
We stopped at a house. She went inside for a few minutes. I followed after her to see if everything was all right, not really caring about what may happen. I was fiercely protective by this time. A woman came out, we will call her "Peaches" said ,"We have not seen her in two weeks. We were so worried about her. I have a warm bed and a lot of food. She is welcome here.”
The woman ran up to me and slightly fell in my arms and said, "Thank you. I was lost." I hugged her deeply. The ivory coat that I had been trying not to get food on all day did not matter at the moment. I took her face in my hand and told her that we all get a little confused at times and it was all right.
I asked Peaches to make sure that she went back to the doctor to get her medication. I gave her my card and told her to call me if she needed any other resources.
I did not know how to feel. I chastised myself for riding by and making assumptions. However, the look in my daughter's eyes told me everything I needed to know about who I was as a person. Respect and love despite falling short. I wonder if my love of people is being tested. I affirmed this morning and the test came so quickly. God has a way of putting roadblocks up for you so you can learn from them. But then the universe works in ways to show you that you are not the only one, the devil had nothing to do with this or that, get over yourself and really consider how blessed you really are with sanity, a non medicated life, being purposeful and really not giving a damn that indeed life is so beautiful despite wins or losses and the fact that there are some truly pompous and shitty people in our immediate worlds. There is a purpose. When you get to the point where there is not beauty in your purpose, change something soon, not later but now. I received my "Thanks-giving" in a different venue. I went home and through all of that my ivory coat was still clean as snow. I will not question again whether I truly#lovepeople or get upset when I fall short. I am hoping that I continue to pass my tests in life with flying colors.
This was printed in the December 13, 2015 - December 26, 2015 edition.