I almost pass her by. I am on my way back from lunch scurrying up Wilson Blvd. as a pool of sweat begins to form in my cleavage. It is not until I’m right up on her that she catches my periphery. I do not read her sign. But, something about her posture punches me in the gut. She is not making eye contact with anyone. She is not asking for money. Instead, she is crouched low to the ground with her head bowed and her arms outstretched.
My mind instantly recalls the $10 dollar bill my coworker handed me less than an hour before so I could also grab her lunch. I remember how that bill is still balled up in my wallet because I paid for everything on my card, assuming the $10 dollar bill would be an unexpected treat I’d forget about and find in my wallet a few days later. But, there is something about her. There is something about this black woman who is crouched low to the ground with her head bowed and her arms outstretched that compels me to unzip my wallet.
I’d love to say this is something I do often. I’d love to tell you that I always find my heartstrings being yanked on as I pass paupers on metropolitan streets. But, I am not always a good human being or even a decent one. I, like so many others, can grow numb to the way the world chews people up and spits them up.
But, today, the emotional Novocaine wore off. And I saw this black woman who suddenly didn’t seem or feel or look so far away from me. I saw her more than likely praying to the same God who I’ve been trying to find my way back to as of late. I saw her on a sunny Friday afternoon fighting to live and smile and survive in a world that decided it would be fine to bypass her or, at best, keep her in its periphery.
Our eyes lock when I hand her the bill. And something about the way her voice bounces one note higher when she said “Bless your heart, sis” leaves me in tears both times I reminisce on the exchange.
I want to make some resounding statement about black women, but the truth is the way an encounter like that brings me to my knees is still brand new. I am still making sense of the way my passion for black women bubbles over. I am still finding outlets for anger that swells when I witness the inequities we experience. I am still figuring out how to keep my feet on solid ground when it seems as though the world just keeps spinning.
But, all I can do is fight to keep my heart wide open and my arms outstretched.