Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Yes, I changed my picture. I just felt like a change, so I put this one up. Maybe I'll change it again later, maybe not.

I've just found myself so sad over the catastrophe in New Orleans, Mississippi and the surrounding areas. The images are just so tragic. Tonight, they moved my stepfather to tears when he recognized where he had just been in Bay St. Louis, completely flattened. We were at the dinner table, watching the reports, and he just lost it. It made me so sad. Watching those poor people on television breaks my heart and makes me feel so helpless.

And speaking of sadness, I had to make a pit stop in a very bad neighborhood to get gas, as did a lot of people. I was running on fumes and there are very few gas stations downtown, so I didn't have a choice. I was already hot under the collar because the roads had been at a standstill and weren't moving. As I pulled up, I saw that the pumps were surrounded by kids who wanted to pump my gas for me for change. I didn't have change, and said so. And, I really didn't have any change, having to coin dive at the coffee shop that morning because I hadn't gone to the bank. A man in a wheelchair approached me for change right after and I said the same thing. I had trouble getting the pump to work and had to go back and forth to the attendant to get the gas going. As I did so, the kid, who looked to be about twelve or so kept asking me to let him pump my gas. I told him, "I don't even carry cash anymore." He looked at me and asked with genuine sincerity and concern, "Did you get robbed?" It melted my heart. My anger at the situation and the people around me went away. I said that I had, and he looked to the ground. Before my eyes, an irritating consequence of stopping in a bad neighborhood morphed into a sweet kid. A sweet, poor black kid who lived in the projects that surrounded the area, looking not just for change, but for human contact with an adult. And maybe with an adult who didn't look like him or by the grace of God have to ask people for change. The kind of adult who usually blows through his neighborhood with windows rolled up and doors locked. As I looked at this boy who by bad luck was in a really shitty situation, but had retained a sweetness and somehow still childlike, the hardness on my face softened. I smiled and said, "It sucks." I wasn't just talking about having been robbed.

He nodded, having been let in. So little on my part, but it was enough.

As I pulled out, I rolled down my window and said goodbye to him, and he waved, then said, "Maybe you can get me next time."

And just maybe I will.

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