Thursday, February 09, 2006

Recognized.

I packed for a few hours when I got home last night, wrapping up things that have lovingly become a part of our home - carefully wrapping the crysal, the china, the picture frames that held family photographs. At about nine o'clock - I realized we still hadn't eaten dinner and I didn't particularly feel like cooking. BBQ sounded good - and I asked Michael to drive with me, as the place I wanted to go was across town, and I didn't want to go by myself. The wind was blowing, and it was cold - maybe 20 degrees or so.

We walked in, and we were one of only maybe 15 people scattered in the restaurant, and incidentally the only white folks in the place. (I say that only because it surprises me how startled the employees look everytime we go there. There's around four of these restaurants in the metro area - and this one isn't in what I would consider really to be the ghetto, but it's in a relatively high-crime area, and for whatever reason while white folks go there during the day, there's some sort of unspoken rule that they rarely go there at night.

[Race discourse isn't really the point behind this post, and while I'd like to pretend that it doesn't matter - the undercurrents of "otherness" are defintiely palpable when you walk in and every single person stops what they're doing and turns to look at you and stare. To be the minority is uncomfortable, and I realize that my thirty minute foray into it doesn't begin to address how thousands of blacks deal with it on a daily basis. I wish it wasn't like that - and while I concede that great progress has been made, we've got a LONG way to go before it's no longer a "black and white" issue.]

"Hi, May I help you?" the woman behind the counter asked. We put in our orders, and I ended up getting $5 back through some promotion that they had going on. While we were standing at the register waiting to pay, the room became suddenly quiet. A large man, maybe 6'3" came in wearing sunglasses, a trench coat and a hood up over his head. I didn't see him at first, because he was standing directly behind me. But I could smell him. He reeked of stale urine and musty clothes. He was uncomfortably close, and the woman behind the counter stepped back from the register, her voice wavering and asked if he would please remove his hood and sunglasses. He did, his hands trembling, and asked if they had coffee. She said yes, that it was around the corner, and he asked how much it was, and she said he could have it for free. He thanked her, went and got a cup of coffee, said good evening to us as he passed, and sat in the dining room alone, humming softly.

He was kind, he wasn't bothering anyone, and to be honest, I forgot he was there. We ate our meal and as we walked out, Michael said, "Honey, you know. That five dollars that we got back at dinner would mean a lot more to him than it would to us. Why don't you run back in and give it to him with and let him get a hot meal."

At first I was hesitant. While it seemed that he was probably homeless, or at the very least very down on his luck, I didn't want to offend him. I didn't want him to think of me as some uppity white bitch taking pity on him. What if he got angry and caused a scene?

Michael reached into his pocket, pulled out all the cash he had and stuffed it crumpled into my hand. "Just go." I grabbed the money we'd gotten back from the register, and cursed wishing I had more cash in my wallet.

I turned around, and approached him. His eyes were closed, his hands resting on the top of the table and I was afraid he'd fallen asleep. "Um... sirr...." I stammered, and he opened his eyes. I quickly stuffed the wad of bills under his hand and whispered, "Please, have something to eat other than a cup of coffee. It isn't much, but please, have a bite to eat." He looked up at me, and he asked me my name. He smiled and said "I'm Bobby. It's a pleasure to meet you." He invited me to sit with him, and tears welled in his eyes.

"Thank you." He said. "Thank you for taking the time to care about someone else, for saying hello, for just recognizing me as a person. God Bless You." I squeezed his hand, and wished him well, and then ran out to the waiting car - where I promptly burst into giant racking sobs. It breaks my heart to see someone who is suffering, without a roof over their heads, without food, without the ability to even provide for the most basic needs. It breaks my heart because I know - it could've been me, or anyone that I love standing there instead of him.

What we did, in the grand scheme of things was really nothing. It was just a little money, and we live a very comfortable life. We could afford to give much more than we do, and we should. But last night, my heart was so full of love for someone I didn't even know that it devastated me.

A close friend of mine's wife went this year and walked, delivering holiday cards to the homeless in her hometown. It was a small gesture of love for humankind, cost her basically nothing, and brought a brief glimpse of normalcy and happiness to the lives of people that are often cast aside and ignored.

This may not make sense, but this is why I want children. I want a child so that I can teach them that everyone, no matter their physical or economic stature, no matter their race, their age, their sex is important. Each person deserves to be recognized as worthy, to be treated with grace and dignity.

Take a chance. Recognize someone that many find it easier to ignore.

22 Comments:

At 1:24 PM, Blogger daysgoby said...

April -

I think you two will be terrific parents.

That man will always remember you.

And now, we will always remember him. Thanks for thie entry.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger julia said...

I'm sitting at my desk, crying. What a great post and I second the thought that you two will be wonderful parents.

Now I'm going to get some tissues.

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous donna said...

Not sure how I found your blog, but I've been lurking for a while. This post made me cry. What a truly kind gesture.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Mrs. T said...

I was truly touched by your post. It really is the small things that matter most. Kudos to you and your husband!

 
At 6:56 PM, Anonymous statia said...

Bitch, now you made my German ass cry.

It makes me want to hug you.

 
At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Lori said...

Another beautiful post. I hope to J and I have the opportunity to teach our children the very same things.

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Just another Jenny said...

You made me cry. If I lived in the city I would have no money because I would give it all away. How great of you, I hope the gesture warmed your heart as much as it did his.

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger Beth said...

You had me tearing up, too. This post made me so happy. Happy to see that you have your priorities straight, that you stopped to show you care and to know that you will be such very good parents.

 
At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Nancy said...

This post really touched my heart. I wish more people would take the time to make these small gestures, and i myself and guilty of not always helping out.
I remember once, late at night, I was on vacation in NYC. It was very cold and inside the subway area was a homeless "kid" who couldn't have been older than 16. He looked weary and starved. I had no cash on me, but I had snacks and I gave him all the snacks I had. The look in his eyes made me walk away crying. Everyone else had just walked by him as if he didn't exist. It is very sad and disturbiing that people are so desensitized that they don't notice these human beings in need of a kind word, a small gesture of help, or just simply to be acknowledged.
I am sure this man will remember your kindness for a very long time, and will may harbor a little more hope in his soul thanks to you.

 
At 4:21 AM, Blogger Helen said...

I don't even know you, but I am so proud of you.

//Vanessa
http://twistedovaries.mu.nu

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Nico said...

You and Michael are such amazing people. Thanks for sharing such a touching story.

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Vacant Uterus said...

Remember a while ago, when you visited my blog and you said that you were proud of me and that I made you cry all at once?

I feel that way about you now.

Seeing past the surface the way you did, mastering your fear and doing exactly what was needed. You and your husband are good people, April. Very good people.

 
At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Manuela said...

Wow.
Wow.

I now officially love you forever.

 
At 8:04 PM, Blogger Donna said...

You are good people. Don't ever doubt it. What a great post.

 
At 10:06 PM, Blogger Cricket said...

This post has stayed with me. Thanks.

 
At 7:13 AM, Blogger chris said...

Yup.

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger Sandy said...

Thanks for sharing your gifts with Bobby, but also with us today. This post makes me want to be a better person ... to recognize. Thanks for the reminder.

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger Tendaironi said...

You are good people! I know where you live and the name of the restaurant based on what they said to you when you walked in the door at the rib joint! It is unmistakable and unforgetable!!They have great barbeque don't they!! The peach tea is awesome and I am so jealous of you!!

 
At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Mary Scarlet said...

Hi April, thank you for reaching out and helping. It's so hard to think that the number of people in straits like this is going up, rather than down, whether for lack of access to mental health care or lack of health insurance, or just jobs that aren't there or that don't pay a decent wage. It's hard to face, and must be doubly hard for you given what you've lived through in your life.

 
At 2:41 PM, Anonymous thalia said...

April, I'm glad you made the effort, and that he appreciated it. You are very thoughtful.

 
At 3:04 PM, Blogger N said...

What can I say more than the 20 people before me...not so much...I didn't cry though, am not the crying type and not (yet) on any fertility hormones, but your "encounter" made me glad and smile and like you and your husband. You are really the kind of person I would like to meet when feeling down, depressed and in need for help!

N

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger deanna said...

I love this entry. Really and truly.

 

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