daily preciousness

Monday, July 26, 2004

their story

I was walking in Dupont last week, on my way to a party. On the waist-high wall near the sidewalk, I passed a curious assortment of items. There rested a pair of well worn crutches, the pads wrapped in scarlet and saffron cloth. Beside them sat a dusty turntable (with a clear smokey plastic dustcover). Atop the record player was a rust colored coffee mug. Empty.

It gave me pause to think. What were these things doing here, mid-block, on a small stone wall? The owner was nowhere to be seen. Nobody was around. How could somebody using crutches carry a large turntable and a mug at the same time? It seemed unlikely, perhaps impossible.

Was it a homeless person? (They often have physical disabilities, or at least, they market themselves as having disabilities. I suspect that the average person is more likely to give some spare change to somebody who appears to be in need physically than somebody who looks healthy. Who really know for certain?)

I realized that I was headed to a gathering of people who all had advanced degrees (or were working toward them). We had all traveled around the world. All of us could differentiate between Thai, Japanese and Chinese spices. More than likely, we could even tell which brand of vanilla flavored vodka you'd put in our drinks. We wore designer clothing. (In fact, a guy at the party, Marvin, announced, "Okay, I'm going to be a label queen and check your label," before he reached into my collar!) How humblingly shallow I was -- we all were -- at that little dinner party. How insanely fortunate we were to be so blessed by circumstance and fate.

And here, on the street, just blocks away from an over-priced eating establishment, I felt the stirrings of pity for somebody I'd never met or even seen... somebody who'd stacked their things by the sidewalk and then walked (or limped) away to retrieve them later.

I can't imagine ever doing that. But I could imagine who they belonged to.

I could imagine their story. Maybe, as a writer and creative thinker, I owe them that much. So that's the assignment I've given myself. To honor this person with my words.

To give them the gift of story. (It's the least I can do!)

Stay tuned.

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