I dunno how to categorize this (Those You Touch By Showing Up?)… So here you go:
I just got off the bus, after a successful call with a new client/art work admirer an hour or so ago. Feeling awed but grateful for things cause wins are awesome after so much loss in my life.
It was past lunch as I headed to Chipotle to meet up with Shara to chop it up and just fawn over the crazy awesome of my first art show and how wild life can get when you say yes to good things. I yawned as I began my careful roll through the parking lot as not to get hit by cars not looking for a whole human in a wheelchair to be strolling through parked cars as I made my way to the center of the plaza. Hunger pains whined in my belly, threatening to have my stomach play patty-cake with my spine.
A Black woman in scrubs eyed my transit through the lot. I saw her in my periphery but decided not to make eye contact. She waited though for me to pass her before saying,
“Didn’t you go to Miami-Dade?”
I practically lived at Miami-Dade after high school. It was where I cut my academic teeth, where I got my first work-study job, where I had my first red Solo cup of merlot (?), as I ate saltfish with yucca and garlic in the campus gallery, surrounded by art. So I’m used to getting this question.
“Yes…” She says, slowly.
“Yes. I was there, many years ago…” I say and shake my head in the affirmative, not thoroughly remembering her because my eyes aren’t quiet focused on her because I am trying to make sure I am safe, in the middle of this parking lot with a lot of traffic.
“You… You helped me through Miami-Dade.”
I finally focus my eyes on her face and give her a quizzical look, moving in closer. She has my attention. Seeing the question on my face, she continues,
“I was going through so much… so much during that time. And you helped me!”
I look at her closely…
“…Aren’t you the assistant to that Professor-”
“Yes! Professor Clark! Yes! I remember you!” My face softens as I get closer, to hear her story because she seemed to have needed to tell it… part of it anyway. So I listened, sitting in the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by cars.
“I was getting all sad and angry because of what I was going through and I remember always seeing you, smiling, laughing, despite [her inference was despite being in a wheelchair/disabled as she gestured toward me]… and I told myself, ‘If she can smile and show up despite everything, I can too!’ And so I would pick myself up. Whenever I’d get down, I’d see you or think of you and get myself together. You inspired me. YOU got me through Miami-Dade. Thank you soooo much!”
She comes closer and gave me a hug.
My face became softer, I nodded my head and told her Thank You and that I was glad I helped her through. And that I was glad she is doing better.
Thank you, she kept on saying, thank you.
“You’ve made my day! Please keep doing well!”
And with that we departed.
Over 20 years ago, I unknowingly helped a woman who only knew me from a class she assisted in and led for a while after the Prof. took ill from a stroke. I don’t remember speaking many words to her. I don’t know that she knew how my world had only just begun to crumble from the inside out due to my Mother’s illness and subsequent death. But the sight of me, showing up to get an education, helped her to make it through a pretty tough patch in her life 20 years ago… and she remembered me.
I am… touched. Humbled. Really quiet in this space. I’ve been reflecting on this since it happened early this afternoon. How many other people I wonder, have I touched, just by showing up? How many other people were propelled forward because of something I did as trivial as just ‘holding space’?
I have this habit of moving through life like no one sees or remembers me. Like I am this momentary blip. As if the fact of me existing has no significant consequence. But this chance encounter today, has shaken me. This woman saw me 20+ years ago and my existence, my mere showing up for class, helped her finish that part of her schooling, helped her get through that part of her life.
I’m not sure what to say or think? I am just floored.