Note: This post was started a month ago and I've been sitting on it, pondering it, worrying over it. Here it is; bruises, bumps, and warts.
This is the hardest post I've ever written.
Nothing is wrong with the family or me. Buds and I are not getting divorced.
It's the most difficult because we all want to be the heroes of our story. I am not the hero. In fact, I was barely a decent human being, and I'm not sure how to admit that without feeling shame.
But shame does none of us any good, so here we go.
Buds and I went to open gym at CrossFit yesterday after we walked down to pick up the van from the mechanic. A person with two below-the-knee amputations, in a hooded sweatshirt, was rolling themselves down the sidewalk in a wheelchair near where we picked up the van. As we pulled out of the garage parking lot, I saw them pulled over on the side of the sidewalk, hunched up, hood pulled around their face, obviously cold.
I drove us the two blocks down to CrossFit, pulled into the parking lot, knew that I couldn't just turn away, then pulled right back out of the parking lot to drive back to see if they were still there. Buds didn't even ask what I was doing. He just knew.
I pulled into the gas station next to where they were sitting. Buds gave me $20. I grabbed my wrist warmers since we didn't have any gloves in the car, and I pulled a green woolen army blanket out of the trunk.
I walked over to them and said, "Good morning. I've got some cash for you, and wrist warmers, and a blanket."
She looked up at me, for it was a woman. She thanked me for the money, but was more excited by the wrist warmers. She thought she might be able to put them on the stumps of her legs. When she realized they were for her hands, she put them on, then we draped the blanket across her lap and shoulders.
She asked me if I thought she could go into the KFC across the street or to the Burger King down the block. I didn't know if they were open. She was worried they wouldn't let her in because she smelled of urine and had stains on her pants. I told her she had money, so they ought to let her in.
She thanked me again. I climbed back in the van, and that was that.
We drove back to CrossFit, but I stayed in the van to have a good sob. Sorrow that her life is so hard. And grief that I'm not the selfless, loving person I want to always believe I am. I couldn't imagine helping her into the van to drive her somewhere. I couldn't imagine how to manage it logistically, let alone what to do after she was in the van.
I didn't know how to help her in a meaningful way. After I collected myself, I called the open homeless shelter to ask if they did pickups, and the lovely gentleman on the other end kindly laughed at my naivete. "They know where the warming centers are, Ma'am."
I was another clueless white lady calling with no idea what life is like for folks with no resources.
When we left CrossFit, we drove by the spot where she had been sitting, and I was relieved she was gone. Being confronted by my own lackluster failings isn't easy. What could I have done differently? What should I have done differently?
It's so easy to forget how much need there is in the world. And right now I feel like I’m just another privileged person who wants to fix the world without getting her hands dirty. Is that really who I am? Is that who I want to be? What does changing that look like?
What do we owe each other, as fellow human beings?