Taking a morning walk ~ 8:10 – 9:30
About nine blocks from home, I’m walking through a park and am surprised to see a young woman lying face up on the sidewalk. Her black bag is in the grass nearby. Her make-up is done; her shoulder-length black hair is gorgeous; she’s dressed in a low cut black top with one strap over her shoulder and an extremely short black skirt. Just lying there. Breathing, legs crossed at the ankles, but just lying there. I call to her from a few yards away, but there’s no response. I get a bit closer and call again, “Ma’am, are you OK?” No response. About 30 yards away there are two people in their front yard watching me. I noisily approach the woman on the sidewalk; talking to her all the while. No response. Now I’m standing at her feet and can see her heavily tattooed chest barely moving up and down. I gently move her bare foot with my shoe. No response. I move it again, calling to her louder. No response. As I walk away, I reach for my phone (which I rarely take on my morning walks) and call the non-emergency police number. Looking over my shoulder, I see that she’s struggling to get up. I hang up just as the phone rings the station. She leaves the bag in the grass and begins stumbling, one step at a time, weaving across the sidewalk very slowly. I call to her again, “Ma’am, is this your bag?” No response. So I go back to where she was lying, pick up her bag and the cell phone that’s in the grass beside it, and begin walking after her. She’s slowly trying to stay on the sidewalk, each step an obvious struggle. I realize by now that she will not respond if I call to her from behind, so I carefully approach from the side and stand in front of her. “Is this your bag? Here’s your phone.” She makes eye contact. Thanks me. I ask if she needs help getting home. “No. I’ll just walk. I live on the south side; maybe 30 minutes.” She’s walking east.
I did not look at her. I saw her.
I reach for my phone again as I watch her stumble up the street. After giving the police the cross-street info, I continue on my walk toward the two people still watching everything from their front yard. Walking past their house, one of them – an older woman – stops me. “Is that woman OK? We saw her when she just dropped her head and fell.” The much younger woman in the yard just stares at me. “Yes, I called the police. She will get help.”
My questions for the two women could have been, “Why didn’t You call the police? Why didn’t You walk 30 yards and see if she was OK? How long were You sitting here watching her, not knowing if she was OK?” I just kept walking.
The persistent question in my head by now is the same one I’ve been hearing for months – even years:
What CAN you do?
I did what I could.
Three blocks later.
An older man, weaving back and forth across the sidewalk, struggling to walk up a small hill. He stops. Sits down on the curb, obviously intoxicated, and waits. I walk past, asking if he’s OK. He makes eye contact and in broken English explains that it will take mucho tiempo to walk to his casa on other side of town. I did not look at him. I saw him.
“What CAN you do?”
I did what I could.
Five blocks later.
Three little girls on bikes, riding in circles around a cul-de-sac, laughing, pig-tails blowing behind them. They exit the safety of the cul-de-sac and courageously ride down a small hill in the middle of the road. The first one passes me, makes eye contact and laughs out a very happy, “Good Morning!” The second one is not far behind, makes eye contact, smile wrapped around her head about 6 times and announces, “This Feels Amazing!” The third greets me with a confident, “Hello!” and a huge smile.
I’m quite certain that this thought has never crossed the minds of those three girls:
“When I grow up, I want to get so drunk that I pass out in a public park in broad daylight, completely out of control.”
“When I grow up, I want to stumble down the street while people are watching me from their windows and front yards, wondering how in the world I ended up like That. THAT would Feel Amazing!”
Yes, I’m quite sure that these are not the dreams of three little girls on bikes.
I wonder what happened, too.
I wonder who didn’t see the young woman or the old man.
I wonder what their homes are like.
I wonder who will clean them up if they wake up lying in their own puke later today.
I wonder how many million people were going through something just like them at that very moment.
I wonder if there’s more I could do.
I did what I could.
And I prayed.
And I saw them.
So, there’s hope.