It’s Still A Beautiful World

That there is still decency and kindness in the world.This morning on the downtown eastside I sat in my locked car at a busy intersection and witnessed an action that reminded me there is good in people all around us. It also reminded me about judgements.

A woman struggled to get across the busy crossing before the “DON’T WALK “symbol appeared. Confined to a wheel chair and shoeless, she struggled to push the chair forward with her shuffling feet. As she struggled past, I noticed one foot wrapped in bandages and the other covered in a tattered sock.

Suddenly, out from the shadowy streets ran a man, an oddity with his own set of issues. Long hair a mess, eyes unfocused; he jittered forth. This man noticed the woman in the wheelchair and paused. As he bent to whisper words in her ear, he grabbed the handles at the back of the wheelchair and silently pushed the chair through the cross walk to safety, leaving the somewhat surprised woman to negotiate the edge between road and sidewalk. A random act of kindness and compassion toward another.

In fact, I saw several acts of compassion on the downtown eastside from vendors offering a cup of Joe to marginalized people outside the trending coffee shops to two city police officers that knelt beside a forlorn man seated on a blanket. They gently spoke with him.

A reminder to look beneath the surface. One man’s random wish to help another human navigate through this often confused and chaotic world made a view outside the car window a whole lot brighter.

What will you see today and who will you help?

 

The Woman Outside The Restaurant

The tiny woman peeks from behind a group of towering palms; the fronds a blowsy canopy offering shade from the searing afternoon heat. She is watching and waiting for the right moment. The restaurant patio full of people enjoying a meal, oblivious to the watchful eyes.  So much waste, she muses.

At first glance, the small woman fits in, looks like anyone seated outside a local burger restaurant. At a glance, she possesses a hip, fashion forward style.  The ball cap pulled down low on her forehead, tank top tight exposing thin, muscular, sun-kissed arms, board shorts falling to mid calf.  A pair of bright white tennis shoes, laced together, hang around her neck.  Why would a woman hang sneakers around her neck? At first glance she resembles a beautiful, blessed, and golden California girl.

Look again. The woman darts; quickly she rummages through open garbage bins, tipping discarded food bags, rooting out left overs, tossed scraps.  Carefully collecting discarded bits, she drinks from tossed soft drink containers. Her darkened, vacant eyes scan the bin’s contents. She is ready to scurry off at the first hint of confrontation. The shoes on her feet too large for someone so petite; they hinder her run. A sunken jaw; she is missing teeth.  This is not a blessed California girl. This woman is middle-aged, certainly homeless.

For a few moments, an uneasiness pricks as I eat; I have so much. Compassion twinges.  There is one who lives scuffling hand to mouth. Guilt simmers as I ponder; fear that the woman is any of us, someone’s mother, sister, aunt.  Shame that this country has so much suffering at its seams.

 

 

The Treasured Book of Words

This morning, I discovered a scrapbook containing snippets of poetry, phrases, and words.  My Grandmother, Alice’s little bespoke Book of Words. Wise words, words to ponder, words to inspire. Words that caught her eye.  I’m assuming that these words spoke to her.  From the poems depicting gardens of pansies, injured birds, rolling kittens, little boys, struggles and hardships, lowly rats, and the evidence of whimsy that I recall, I have been allowed a deeper, sliver glimpse into the reflective soul of the woman I called, Grandma.

Judging by the many clips, Parenting, was a topic that caused our Alice to pause and reflect.  I often wonder about the relationship that she had with her son, my father.  Judging from the poems scrapped carefully into the, Book of Words, Alice, as so many mothers before and after her, was filled with a spirit of hope and promise, at times disappointment, sadness, worry, and longing. Evidence of a dear and precious love was locked in her heart.

I’d like to share this poem from my grandmother’s Book of Words, with you and I wonder if Alice was feeling some regret over family words spoken that once set free, can not be taken back.  It reminds us to celebrate our children’s individuality and their successes, reminding us that success is personal and goals will and should differ. Unconditional love and meaningful praise feeds the soul and the heart.

Which Parent Are You?
I got two A’s, the small boy cried.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very bluntly asked,
Why didn’t you get three?
Mom, I’ve got the dishes done,
The girl called from the door.
Her mother very calmly said,
Did you sweep the floor?
I’ve mowed the grass, the tall boy said,
And put the mower away.
His father asked him with a shrug,
Did you clean off the clay?
The children in the house next door
Seem happy and content.
The same things happen over there,
But this is how it went:
I got two A’s, the small boy cried.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very proudly said, That’s great;
I’m glad you belong to me.
Mom, I’ve got the dishes done,
The girl called from the door.
Her mother smiled and softly said,
Each day I love you more.
I’ve mowed the grass, the tall boy said,
And put the mower away.
His father answered with much joy,
You’ve made my happy day.
Children deserve a little praise
For tasks they’re asked to do,
If they’re to lead a happy life,
So much depends on you.

~ Badger Legionne

(approximate date~1930)

See Through My Eyes

Our eyes meet.  It was brief, like the shutter’s snapshot, only an instant, seconds, a moment.  Humanity.  He stood on the island median, cardboard sign in hand, Homeless. Please help me. Disheveled and not in the contrived careless style of today’s fashions.  Authentic disheveled. The jacket just slightly too large, the pants too loose.  The hair, shaggy and layered, time between cuts.  The skin, weathered, lined, tanned from the elements.  The features, tight, eyes averted, head tipped down to avoid a passerby’s direct gaze. Shame.

The stoplight red, a pause, time to consider.  Should I help him? It’s so easy to dismiss, avert my eyes, look away, and drive away.  Still, consider that it could be you.  Who chooses to stand and beg like this?  Lazy, Crackie, substance abuser, mental illness, the stigmas, text bubbles in my brain. Still, consider that this could be you.  Perhaps, someone you loved? The perilous line that separates us, thin and wavering between the fall to Dependence or Independence, Pass to Fail, Sane to Insane. Do we really get to decide our fate?  The child born into dysfunction and pain, what are the life chances for success? The child born into love and functioning caregivers, is that child more worthy than one without?  Obstacles, in circumstances, one to continuously climb over, the other to crawl through. Who chooses their parents?  The chances good, that if I could sit and ask his life story, it would be full of sad memories, broken dreams, a broken heart.  Drifting through life.

I found four quarters in my wallet. “It’s all I have.” “God, bless you, dear,” were the words he spoke.  “God bless you, too,” I replied. Our eyes meet.  Eyes blue. Cerulean. Quickly, we parted. It was brief, like the shutter’s snapshot, only an instant, a moment.  Humanity.

 

God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song)
God Bless the Child (Billie Holiday song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)