Bright orange sneakers.

It wasn’t actually a lunge. Lunging connotes quick, sudden and direct. Hers was more like a floating surprise into someone else’s space. It was an interruption, but certainly without direction.

The woman who was interrupted expected that she would be asked for money. But she wasn’t. There was no ask. There was no recognition from the glassy eyes bobbing in front of her.

The other woman, the one who floated in a surprising way, was dressed in a bright orange track suit. It may have been velour. It had a fuzzy look to it. It may have been terry cloth. The jacket was zipped up high, up to her neck. The fit of the pant and the jacket made sense on her long body.

She had one of those jumbo wheeled folding shopping carts next to her. It was filled with bags and maybe a blanket. There was a cigarette lighter and a half pack of Newports in the drugstore bag on the top. There was also two orange bottles without the child proof tops. It was her prescription medicine. But it wasn’t the scripts that glazed over her face.

Her eyes were almost hazel. So they were hazel since they had a bit more color than brown. They bulged out a little bit and the whites had thin variegations of red.

The orange sleeves of her jacket, while filled with her arms, seemed to not belong to her torso. They moved independently of her body. Not in a convulsive way, but fitfully aggressing through the nearby air. She levitated back and forth from the curb to the middle of the sidewalk, like a tethered helium balloon that was starting to loose it’s bounce. Her movements were without rhythm, without rhyme, yet fluid.

Gliding in and out of the lunchtime foot traffic, she silently forced the people seeking sandwiches and grain bowls to move out of the way. Most were glad to avoid her, but a few looked for the cup to toss in some coins. When they searched to end of her orange cuff they only saw a burning  menthol that she never drew to her mouth. And then she receded back until her next teeter into the next wave of pedestrians.

No Sense

Photo of 13th and H St. at 10:55 a.m. on January 4th, 1931

Her hair was strawberry blonde, more strawberry than blonde. When you looked closely, you saw that she came that way. No off color at the ends. No reverse skunk dark roots. No center part outlined with silver or white.

She had a thick head of hair and bangs flew from her face. Although her cut was not high fashion, the ends weren’t split. Somebody might say she was a ginger with her freckled face and arms, but she wasn’t that fair and her skin held a tan just fine.

Her lips were moving, and she was only wordless in that she wasn’t making a sound, but she was most definitely forming words. Her face was more than sun kissed. Maybe a bit weather worn, too.

Her back was to the building and behind her was an unopened bottle of orange juice and an extra large cup from Chick-fil-A, or Five Guys or some other red writing on a white logo’ed joint. In front of her was a medium sized, clear plastic cup with a ring of green leaves that identified this as recyclable plastic. Maybe it wasn’t even plastic. It could be a corn product. The cup in front of her was about a foot from her mouth making the shapes of words. There was green inside the cup as well as bordering the cup. The green was paper money.

Back to her hair, it wasn’t dirty. It wasn’t matted. It wasn’t higgledy-piggledy. But it wasn’t fresh from the salon, either. Her eyes were closed and the teeth behind her moving lips were a little oversized, but there. She was wearing a dress and black hose. Not sheer hose, but tights. The tights were ripped and ran. The toes on her left foot, the one on top, were exposed. Her right foot, the one on the bottom, was almost completely bereft of cover. There was a thread that looped between two of her toes that kept the rest of the stocking on her leg.

She had no shoes. No shoes on her feet. No shoes near her feet. No shoes near her head. No shoes next to the unopened juice. She didn’t have a bag. Not a purse. Not a backpack. Not a garbage bag. Not a thin plastic bag from the Walgreens.

She was more than asleep. More like passed out. She was sprawled on the sidewalk in the mid afternoon on a busy corner in the business district. She was on her right side with her hands near her chest, her legs pulled up slightly. Her nearly bare feet pointed toward the White House.

It wasn’t unusual for people to sleep on the sidewalk or to ask for money or to live on the streets downtown. But she didn’t look like that. She looked different. Like she was either a new transplant or someone who was lost or someone who was dumped.

A few people paused as they walked by her, looking to see if she was breathing, wondering if she was okay. At least two called to have someone check in on her. This is because as one was describing the woman and her location to the emergency dispatch, Engine 16 was in the intersection, making a left turn. The firefighters stepped out of the big red truck.

The one on the phone told dispatch that someone was here, hung up and felt water welling in eyesockets. She turned her head to the sky and said a prayer, hoping that something was there to catch it.

Suck Less

Scrolling through Twitter today I was catching up on Brexit, Benghazi, SCOTUS, Pat Summit and the regular random cat pictures, movie memes and (unfathomable to me) GoT references. Full stop when I saw this video.

I have not been able to stop thinking about it all day.

tl;dr a six year old child actor plays two roles. One, a street urchin. The other a middle or upper middle class child. People react very differently to her, ignoring her when she has a dirty face and stopping to help her when she is clean.

I watch this and wonder not just about how much people suck, but–since I’m a people, too–how much do I suck? Do I see and connect? Or am I blind and indifferent?  What does my pigeon brain see that stops me from being kind?

I’m thinking about the suburban neighbors calling the police to report unaccompanied kids, six and ten, walking down a street to the park–free range. The strangers thought those children should be protected. Then I think about police shooting a twelve year old boy who was playing, just seconds after they rolled up. They couldn’t even be bothered with administering first aid to a little boy, a sixth grader, named Tamir Rice. He had been playing with an airsoft gun. [Baby Bear had an airsoft gun in middle school.]

I’m thinking about the mother with the sleeping babe in the stroller asking downtown office workers for diaper money. People don’t even look at her. We brush past. We wonder why she’s begging. We think that she may buy drugs and not Pampers. We judge her.

Then I remember telling my parents that everyone in D.C., would be happy to help them with the subway. Just ask. I know that those same office workers who can’t see the woman with the stroller would offer my midwestern retiree folks money for subway fare. People would judge them as nice old people.

They had to stop filming the video because the little girl was so hurt. People were mean to her. Truly mean. Just because she had dirty clothes and a sooty face. But when she was clean, they were loving and kind.

She knew she was the same person. She couldn’t endure the contrast, the unfairness, the disparity, the despair. She cried. I cried, too. Not just for the mean, but because her budding soul felt the mean.

I have been thinking about this video all day. I know I am not the good guy in the video. There’s work I need to do to transcend my own bias, my antipathy and my apathy. Baby Bear says we should do things from love. Maybe I wouldn’t have stopped and helped that child. Tomorrow, and the next day and the next and the next and the next next, though, I can.

Nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. –Anne Frank