11 June, 2009

the wrong thing

Eating that same salad again. I find that, to save money, I will buy one thing and eat it for a week. Sometimes this gets tiresome.

I am planning to get one of these bags for groceries. Also, I really like this wild idea from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz of replacing reporters with poets and novelists. The results are wonderful!

But that is not what I was going to write about.

I was walking to my car about midnight, had just finished work. I get childishly jittery when I walk alone at night. Even though I was parked about a minute's walk away, I was moving quickly and looking around me like a wild animal. As I walked up the stairs to cross over to Lincoln Street, I was thoroughly spooked by a shady-looking man who stopped walking to stare at me. I kept moving, feeling relieved that I saw a woman walking a dog at the top of the staircase. But when I passed her, she suddenly moved very close to me--I think my heart froze--and began whispering to me. She was very tall, with sunken eyes under the brim of a hat.

She spoke slowly, as if she did not know what she was saying. "I am truly homeless," she said, stepping closer to me. I felt like a rabbit in an open field. "I have nothing. And... I've found women's shelters," she paused again, looking down at the black Pomeranian on the leash, "but they won't take me because of my dog. And I'm not a bum, I'm not..." Feeling panicky, I interrupted her and blurted out, "I'm sorry, I don't have any cash," and fairly dashed off in the direction of my car. But that was a lie. I did have cash.

After I drove for about a mile, still feeling shaky, I had the sudden urge to turn back and find that woman and give her my $20. But I didn't. I think I did the wrong thing. And it's been bothering me all day, the first thing I thought about this morning.

I acted out of panicky fear instead of out of courageous compassion. Part of me hopes that I will run into her again, so I can make amends. But the other part of me hopes I never get confronted by a homeless person again. It's unsettling--facing poverty. And I proved that I'm not big enough or loving enough to handle it. It's a difficult thing. I'm not sure what else to say about it, except that I feel a confusing mix of shame and self-righteous security.

1 comment:

Dominic said...

This was a good post :).