Age has granted me the clarity needed to comprehend something that has plagued my understanding since I was very young. Even as a six-year-old I remember watching people hurt. I remember watching those hurt people turn away and push away those people they longed to be close to.
I understood, as a teenager, that the reason for this was primarily fear of rejection. Never short on hubris, or words, I have attempted to open their eyes to the fact that they hold the power to end their own pain and the pain of others by reaching out to them. I have achieved varying degrees of success, understandably. I need people to understand that they can change everything by turning toward people and sharing their fears and passions. That by sharing our fears and passions we open the floor to others to do the same, bolstering them by our courage.
What age has finally granted me is the knowledge that reaching out to others when one is afraid requires a profound amount of courage that most people cannot summon. And, that when a person (of any age) can and does summon the courage, one must act to recognize it for what it is, no matter the outcome.
((This was written as an entry for a contest. The idea is to tell of a :30 second friendship. The details of the contest are here.))
I catch the last train home.
I delay the trip as long as possible, avoiding returning to a house full of resentful strangers, but it is time to go or risk the police coming to find me later. The bright lights inside and dark night without combine to turn the windows into mirrors.
The only other person on the train is a man who is wearing too many coats. He sits at the other end of the car. The doors slide closed and I take a seat as far from him as possible.
I want to be alone.
I sit as close to the wall as I can, hugging the glass. I stare at the reflection of my hopeless tears falling onto my coat as we start to move. I am 17 and alone in the world. I have just decided to accept that my life has no meaning. I contemplate suicide, but know that I can not actually harm myself. It is not a happy thought.
Suddenly, she is there.
Behind me in the glass, her reflection looks like a middle-aged woman carrying too many shopping bags. She and her bags crowd onto the seat right next to me. I shift my back toward her resentfully, wondering why she doesn’t sit anywhere else.
I wipe my tears with my sleeves. I can only cry alone.
We ride in tense silence until she begins searching her bags.
“Look at this,” the angel says, holding out a small tissue paper envelope with the top folded over. I turn in the seat, somehow knowing she will not let up unless I do. I take the envelope, confused.
Inside the envelope is a beaded bracelet. They are very popular. I have seen the cool kids at school wearing them in a variety of colors. It is not the sort of thing I can afford.
This one is pale pink.
“It’s rose quartz,” she says. Seeing that I won’t respond, she adds, “they are real stones, not just plastic beads. Rose quartz are for love.”
“It’s pretty,” I say meekly, trying to pass it back to her.
She shakes her short dark hair and gives me a small smile. “You keep it.”
She gathers up her bags with a sense of finality, refusing to take back the gift. “Even if it doesn’t seem likely, there are people that love you.”
Her words shatter my tenuous calm and I sob openly into my hands, crinkling the paper envelope but unable to stop. I am broken by the kindness of this stranger when my own family cannot see my worth. When I collect myself and look up again, she is gone.
I stand up and turn around, searching the car. I see that she is no longer on the train. There are only rows of empty seats and that one man, who still doesn’t turn around.
The train has not stopped, we are still between stations. I look around, confused. I know there is no way to move between cars while the train is moving, she is either here, or she never was.
My angel disappeared as quickly and quietly as she appeared. She left behind her words of kindness and that bracelet made of love. I wore those stone beads for years, a constant reminder that I was loved, even if I couldn’t see by whom
Every time I see someone panhandling, sleeping on the street, or hitchiking with a large pack my heart catches. I think back to my long hours of waiting at bus stops in the cold, snow, and rain. I sat watching hundreds of cars go by with only the driver inside. I was resentful then and still often feel guilty if I drive anywhere alone in my minivan.
I watched the people pass by as I sat. I was hungry, tired, cold and wet. I never asked anyone for anything, but I wished desperately that someone would offer me a kind word, a snack, or a ride. I imagined sliding into a warm car and being driven in comfort before being dropped off close to my house. It rarely if ever happened.
I know what it feels like to wonder where I would sleep at night. I know what kind of desperate obsession hunger becomes when you can see others eating things you cannot have. I can easily disregard the choices that may have led people to the point where they are now: standing with a cardboard sign. I simply see a person suffering, that could benefit from any kindness.
Nowadays I rarely carry cash. All my income is direct-deposited and I don’t often need cash. In those moments when I see someone who is so very much in need, I often wish I had something to give them.
I have recently hit upon an idea I am excited about: care packs. The concept is simple; you buy a box of zipper bags and pack them full of small items that a person living rough or down-on-their-luck might need. You then keep them in your car. When you come across someone in need, you give them a care pack instead of, or in addition to, just handing out cash.
Something like this would have made a world of difference for me. I’ll include a list of items that might be good at the bottom of this post.
This is an article about some people in Jacksonville that have been helping people in this way. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.jacksonville.com/amp/5556519002
Here is my list: Snack bars, protein snacks, rasins, hand sanitizer, face masks, tissues or toilet paper, liquid soap, shampoo, toothbrush/toothpaste, socks, deodorant, soap and washcloth or wipes, a trash bag, a few dollars or a gift card to a grocery store or fast food. * I pack a couple with some feminine hygiene, too. In case I meet a person who needs those.
Drop a comment below with your thoughts? Share pictures if you make some packs of your own!
I know. I can hear you saying “the agents that rep your favorite bestsellers are not going to be taking queries.”
Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Needed? Is it Kind?
My (adopted) mom always says “The answer you have is ‘No’ if you don’t ask.” So why not query even your favorite agents? Maybe you’ll be rejected, but maybe not. And, maybe a rejection could lead to a referral, or some valuable feedback.
If you’d like help finding an agent who reps comparable works, maybe try looking here: https://querytracker.net/clients.php?g=W