Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Chance Encounter

The walk isn't particularly long, but on this day it seemed that way.  A cold wind blew in off the lake.  "This is more than a hint of winter to come," thought Dana.  "This is the real thing!" Small bits of ice pelleted against her face, causing Dana to draw her hood more closely around her. 

Usually she enjoyed walking through the city.  Her favorite route, along Michigan Avenue, allowed her to enjoy the sun's rays unimpeded by the shadows of the skyscrapers.  Millenium park offered a fine view of the flowers and fountains that were hallmarks of the city. 

"Soon the ice rink will be up and running," she thought to herself.  "And the Christmas lights will make the city seem even more festive."

 Dana really couldn't see the lake from this far west, but the wind and the lack of buildings made her aware of its presence.  She never tired of this route but looked forward to it each time she went to the office.  If only she had time to stop and enjoy the park, even for a few brief moments.

But, Dana's train arrived downtown with just enough time for her to make it to the office on time, checking in before she had to begin her day.  She walked briskly, still enjoying the view, not taking any time to dawdle, window-shop or daydream.  Some days she stayed down after work to just linger for awhile, opting for a later train for her return home.

Many mornings, but not always, she happened upon the young woman selling Streetwise, the publication that offered homeless and unemployed persons a way to earn at least a little bit of cash.  Usually Dana was put off by the vendors,at least those who got in her face or blocked her path, practically daring her to pass by without making a purchase.  Often she would cross the street to avoid those more aggressive sales tactics, not really out of a sense of intimidation, but more to avoid the annoyance of the situation.  At least that's what she told herself.

But the young woman who happened to take up "shop" on this particular corner was different.  She caught Dana's eye immediately.  It was true that Dana first noticed the wheelchair, but that wasn't all of it or even most of it.  It was her attitude more than anything.  The way she greeted each person who walked by with "good morning" or "have a nice day."  Her greetings were cheerful and friendly. She never once directly asked people to buy her paper, but just clasped them in her lap discreetly.  

Dana had passed her by several times, not buying, but returning her smile and greeting.  Most days she was posted there, on her regular corner.  Some days she was not.  On those days, Dana thought about her, wondering if everything was alright or if she was experiencing health problems.  Perhaps the weather kept her indoors or maybe she had somewhere else to be. Whatever the case, Dana often caught herself imagining what this person's life might be like.  How did she get downtown?  Did someone bring her?  Did she take the bus?  Thoughts and questions about the woman ran through Dana's mind.  

Whenever the saleswoman was stationed in the usual place, she was the same, always friendly, always smiling:  just waiting, hoping perhaps, that she might make sale or two,  but nevertheless, seeming to enjoy herself regardless of what happened.  Dana felt somehow drawn to her, not out of sympathy or pity, but as a friend.  She wanted to reach out to this young lady.

And so, Dana promised herself that she would patronize this salesperson whenever she had the opportunity. The first time she handed over the dollar, the woman was somewhat taken aback.  "You want a paper?" she asked.  

"Yes, please."  Dana smiled and took the paper from her outstretched hand.

"Thank you.  Enjoy the paper and have a good day," the woman smiled, more broadly now.

Each day on her walk to the office Dana pondered what her day might bring. Angry phone calls, taking complaints and solving problems for an ungrateful customer, bad news in the market, causing people to worry and get upset.  Working with the public always brought its challenges.  Many days, Dana longed to just stay in the park and sit, escaping from the unhappy prospect of answering phones all day.  But lately, she saw things differently.  She had a job that allowed her the pleasure of walking to work, enjoying the views of the city.  She was paid, if not well, at least enough to get by.  Compared to others, Dana led a charmed and sheltered life. That might change at any time, but for now, Dana was content, grateful even.  

She continued walking to work each day and as she approached the corner, she began to remember the woman, pulling a dollar of her purse and hoping.  

"We can all make a difference," Dana thought, "if not in big, important ways, then in small ways, one person at a time.  If a disabled, unemployed young woman could greet each day with a smile, well, then there really is hope after all."

One dollar! A small price to pay for a warm and friendly encounter.  It didn't cost  much, but whenever Dana saw the paper lady,  it set her mood for the entire day.  These chance encounters, with their brief exchange, made all the difference.  Attitude is everything. She resolved herself to a better outlook  and a more positive way of life.

1 comment:

Lin said...

An inspirational story, nice. Isn't it funny how we have to stop and remind ourselves to be grateful? And to be kind? How true.