Tuesday, May 21, 2013
I just read this Alexis and it brought tears to my eyes. One small gesture, one simple conversation, and you created such an amazing tale of it all with exact emotion and processing that is so spot on, only I know. You truly are a talent, not just an author and an amazing story teller, but your ability to see through the surface and go so much deeper, it truly is amazing. Special. I love you so much and so excited to see your work evolve. You are a vessel of healing for many and with this is big responsibility. I believe in you. You truly are brilliant. Stay humbled, do your best and as we say, God will do the rest. I love you. Mom
Help. Help! …Help? Is there a difference between being nice to someone and being a help to someone? You see, I’ve contemplated this little word, help, for years. It wasn’t until an average inner city bus ride that I really understood what it was to help.
“HONK HONK!” goes the streamlining 38 pulling into its stop. A cluster of people pile in, most without seats, even more without homes. We all slightly serge forward as the bus comes to an abrupt halt. I hear the erratic car sirens and cling of bicycle bells as they mold around the bus’s changing speeds. Shuffling around are people making their way through, trying to find a place on the overhead railing for their hand. I try and keep my head down, but I can’t help but glance up when a rotten unidentifiable scent spills through the limited air. This scent is one I could only explain as homeless. Not an uncommon smell, but it sure does command your attention.
As the bus takes off, I scan the now settled area that lies around me, no one person more put off than the next. The pressed business man hiking up his sleeve with one dramatic out stretch of his arm to glance at his watch he just looked at 29 seconds ago. I know it was 29 seconds because that’s exactly the time between sneezes coming from the congested lady sitting shoulder to the man. He seems to hide little tolerance for her discomfort. As I scan the front of the bus, among the grey-scale rainbow of groggy faces and blank stares, I find a man in battered clothes and a scruffy chin. It was him, I knew it. He was like the stink bomb someone threw into the broom closet and then locked the door behind them. Gasping for clean air between my muffled breaths, I am relieved when the bus comes to another halt. I quickly yank one of the windows open as discretely as I can beneath the screeching brakes and off balanced footing. I am discrete because I see the looks people get when they’ve opened the windows in the past. It’s the middle of winter in gusty San Francisco and you are seriously going to open that window? I’m not being courteous, but I don’t care. They have to smell it too.
Before I can return back to my unassuming hunch, I notice a new wave of passenger’s board. The all look as faceless as the rest, lightly grazing the crowd for a place to stand. Just then, the last pick up walks up the steps: an elderly- withering- old lady. I watch many eyes scat hers. Everyone knows you give up your seat for an old lady; everyone knows that. The group I’m among instead takes to their phones and books and shoves them up their noses, slightly more interested than they were five seconds ago. Selfish. I wish I had a seat to give to her. I even thought about excusing the person sitting under me with her side flapped hair and dark black attire. A, that’s rude. And B, from the way she looks, better not. But then I hear a muffle coming from up front. It’s the man I was so shamelessly repulsed by in my head. He pops out of his seat like he sat on a thumbtack and says something with a quiet gesture in the lady’s direction. I watch the lady shrivel into her seat with gratitude on her lips, but as the bus takes a wide turn a gust of chilling wind sweeps through the corridor and the lady stops what she was saying as she brushes her hands against her arms. I close the window. She is why I shouldn’t have opened it in the first place.
My eyes remain forward until my stop at Powell. I think about what that man did for the old lady. It’s something I would have done myself; I’ve watched many do before me, but maybe it was just the fact that he stood out because no one else was willing to. Or maybe it was because of him. I look at his clothes dressed in stains and discoloration; I recall his putrid smell that overwhelms my nostrils- I can’t imagine his life is full of many daily comforts. Where will he be sleeping tonight? Perhaps a park bench or the inside of a cardboard box? He had a seat on the bus for two seconds and he gave it up just as fast; selflessly. The man in the business suit couldn’t even keep a still face with the lady with a cold sitting next to him. I didn’t have a chance to see what he looked like when the homeless man walked on, but I’m sure it was disgust.
I walk off the bus and thank the bus driver, as I do every time and to my surprise, the homeless man gets off as well. I continue on my way to get a coffee at the café on the corner. The man stationed himself just off the bus stop where a shopping cart full of trash bags and blankets waits for him. My mind stays set on the bus ride. Past the school of clicking heels and hurried paces, I take my place in line for coffee. There are always lines in the city. Everywhere. This give me more empty time to think. I think about my morning: I wake up and get the paper, wave to our neighbor and go back inside. Once out the door again, I hustle my way up the current of pedestrians to reach the bus stop. While waiting for the light, I catch the eye of a little girl who was eyeing my pink piggy key chain. I smile and rush to the bus, getting on just in time. There are no seats, so I stand. I wished I didn’t have to because I accidently grabbed a pair of shoes that I normally don’t wear because they rub on my heels. I didn’t do anything like what that man did. He seemed to do it without even thinking about it. I rack my brain trying to think if there was anything I did without meaning to. No. If anything, I didn’t do a lot of things without meaning to. There was only one newspaper between my neighbor’s and my house- I didn’t even offer it to him. The pedestrians- I probably pushed a few people out of the way as I attempted to move past them. Inconsiderate. When I got to the light, the little girl was looking at my key chain. I didn’t even smile at her. It was a long light; I could have let her click the button on it that makes oinking noises. She would have liked that. Nothing. Well, I guess I did thank the bus driver….
No. What that man did was genuinely help that woman. Here I am racking my brain on ways I could just be nice to people. There is a difference between being nice to someone without going out of your way and actually going out of your way to make it easier on someone.
So that’s what I did. I walked out of the coffee shop with a coffee in my right hand and a water bottle and bagel in my other. As I struggled for the door, a woman kindly opened it for me. She helped me. I walk back down to the bus stop, happy to see the man still stationed by his cart. He was turned away when I walked up behind it and set the water and bagel on top of a pile of blankets. I did not change pace between the actions. I made sure it was stable and would roll off and then kept forward. He doesn’t need to know it was me, but I knew it was me. I wasn’t just being nice and I didn’t want him to think I was. He needed a little help just like that old lady did and just like I did. Just like we all do.
A bus ride I will never forget. It reminded me how to help.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Everyone says one person can't change the world, but I beg to differ. One person CAN change the world and I know it because she lives everyday, convincing me I can do the same. That one person who can change the world, that person is you.
You, the one person that means the world to me. Who raises mountains just to set me on top of. Who fights off challengers that dare come near. Who calms the seas so I can skate along the water. Who beckons wind that carries me to fly.
YOU are one of God's secret weapons (he told me so himself). You, who does miraculous things that only I could know Who wears her excellence just in her name. Mom.
Everyone who says one person can't change the world obviously hasn't met you. I love you with all my heart, Mama. Always and forever.
Happy Mother's Day