Day 3 of my Month of Hundreds. If not for the demands of this project, I might not have left the house today. But duty called, and also we were getting low on coffee. Louise and I decided to walk down to Peet’s on Broadway, less than a mile away.
As we meandered through our well-kept neighborhood I couldn’t help but consider every person who walked or drove by. Lots of young families, strollers, men in cars. I realized how uncomfortable it would feel to approach someone appearing to be well-to-do; would they be insulted by my gesture? What does that mean?
I considered a woman sitting at the bus stop, her young daughter poking in the dirt next to the bench. A studious-appearing young man sitting outside Peet’s caught my eye, then the voice in my head reminded me that it’s the smokers who tend to sit outside. I thought how stupid my prejudice against smokers is, and kept walking. Louise and I got our coffee and then realized we were both starving.
We got burritos next door and sat down. There was a small crowd watching a football game in the bar but otherwise the place was empty. I was just starting to eat when I saw a young family walking by. A tall, thin woman in a colorful headscarf, a man and their two sons ages five and seven or so. Ethiopian? I wondered. Then I noticed the way both boys were holding onto their father’s large right hand. “I’ll be right back!”, I told Louise and bolted out the door. I didn’t want to seem to be sneaking up behind them so I walked quickly past and then turned around. I stood there as they walked closer, and could hear the woman speaking softly to the children. I worried that maybe they didn’t speak English.
“Excuse me”, I said. They stopped and I saw how beautiful the woman was. “This might sound a little strange”. She smiled, just a little. “I’m giving some gifts in honor of my mother, who died a few months ago”. “Oh, I am sorry!”, said the woman, and the man said, “I am sorry.” I pressed the folded up bill into the woman’s hand. “I would like you to have this”. I could tell she didn’t want to look at it too openly but she snuck a glance and said “Oh! Thank you! We’ll go school shopping!” She looked down at the older boy, who was squeezed shyly against his father’s side. “Say thank you!”, she said. She gave me a big hug and then said, again, “I am sorry about your mother.”
The woman was clearly grateful but didn’t seem surprised. I like to imagine that, in their world, wonderful and unexpected things happen routinely. How lovely for those boys to grow up with a mother who takes the kindness of strangers in stride.