Urban Encounters

  1. My associate and I walked toward Penn Station from our meeting with a hot Internet advertising agency.  The introduction at the agency had been by a friend who had once been managing editor of Esquire.  We were wearing our New York-best, and tromping about like country boys on an important mission.  Suddenly the sidewalks were thin, black men were moving things, a commotion.  Danger, Will Robinson.  We walked toward the curb and threaded the disturbance.  To my left, I saw a woman sitting against the brick façade, sobbing.  We hurried on in silence.  We had a train to catch.  Several blocks later, I asked my associate, “Did you see that woman crying back there?”  I can’t remember what he said, but I have always thought that I am a good person, the kind of person who would help anyone in need if the opportunity presented itself, but a woman was crying in the street and I walked right by her.
  2.  I was looking for dinner in Monterey California.  A young man with a pack in a doorway asked for money for food.  He’s a strong fellow, I thought, and probably involved with drugs, so I had better keep walking.  It was a beautiful night and I was lonely.  I thought, maybe I should go back and take the young man to dinner.  It might be interesting.  I didn’t, but the next morning’s news presented a story about Dallas cowboy quarterback Tony Romo taking a homeless man to the movies.
  3. I took my family to New York to see a show during a snow storm.  We walked north toward Broadway in a large crowd that stopped at a light.  A man in a wheel chair held out his hat and bellowed, “Please give m five dollars for dinner!”  He repeated again and again, “Please give me five dollars for dinner!”  Finally, I said to my daughter, who loves to donate my money, “Put this in his hat.”  She ran back and put the five dollar bill in his hat.  He stopped bellowing.
  4. On a beautiful summer night, a gray-haired woman in a wheel chair in San Jose, California held out her cup for change.  Under different circumstances, she could be my mother, I thought.  Under some circumstances, this could be me.  I gave her the change that came out of my pocket – maybe 65 cents.  We walked down the street, and I heard the woman yelling.  I turned around, and she seemed to me yelling at me.  I wondered, did I give her my keys?  Is this some message?  I walked back, and she said, “I want to give you this.”  She reached into a plastic bag and produced a perfectly clean, folded pair of white socks with a blue stripe and a faded yellow stripe around the top.  “Then let me give you this,” I said, and I gave her two dollars.  “You don’t have to do that,” she said.
Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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