The Mutuality of a Moment
Last night. Baltimore. Downtown. Almost dark. I was driving on Fayette, approaching Colvin near the main Post Office. Traffic slowed. As I neared the intersection, I saw a young man on the ground smack dab in the middle with his smashed motorcycle lying beside him. Another young man was there, unsure of what to do. Instinct said: “Pull over.”
I thought: “Surely, somebody’s already called 911.” Instinct said: “Call 911 anyway.” As I called, I saw cars, unable to see the accident until they were right on top of it, trying to snake around the scene. Instinct said: “Ruh roh!” I realized that if somebody simply stood in the intersection, impatient drivers would realize that “there was a situation” and, as my Pa would say: “They should hold their pants on!” So, I got out and stood in the intersection.
As I talked to the 911 lady (bless her calm voice), the other young man (bless him) talked to the motorcyclist. He was in pain and I won’t describe what his knee looked like — there are reasons I’m an artist, not a nurse!
In less than ten, the ambulance arrived (bless them too); and I wasn’t needed. As I returned to my car, I looked around. I realized that the driver of the car behind where I’d stood on Fayette, had stopped with her flashers on to block traffic in that lane. So did the man in the car on Colvin. (Bless them both). I bowed to that woman, got in my car and drove on.
I awoke this morning with the realization: “That woman, she literally had my back!” It hit me like a ton of bricks! I thought to myself: “This is how we’ll get through this virus, each person just doing their part, each person doing what they can to help others; no big deal— it’s just what ordinary, decent people do.”
Say what you will, gripe all you want about Baltimore, but remember: we also live in a generous, kind, amazing city, full of caring human beings. Many are doing their jobs right now; many have lost their jobs right now. Just like bullets, kindness knows no race, creed or class. Even as you read the homicide statistics, have faith that there are also untold acts of kindness happening all around us all the time. Contribute to them! Remember to thank the mail carrier and the person checking out your groceries. What did they have to do – perhaps with kids at home and limited public transportation – just to get to their job? In this moment, let’s not stop at the common farewell: “Be careful out there.” Let’s try: “Take care; let’s watch out for each other.”
P.S. You can hear my favorite poem about kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye right here. And if interested, look up the story behind it. Gate A-4 is another incredible story poem of hers in the same vein.
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