I was on a walk earlier today when a woman, smoking on her 6th Ave penthouse terrace, leaned over her wall, and offered a friendly, “Hey.”
When I looked up, I realized that she was greeting the homeless person nearby. She dropped a fresh cigarette down to him. He picked it up off the ground, and lit it. He said, “Thank you,” and she said, “Take care of yourself, okay?”
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “so very much to unpack in that scene–on many levels–and in my own heart.”
And so I blog.
Some would see the scene, and think, “Oh, how nice of her. She didn’t have to do that.”
Others would call the scene a perfect metaphor for economic disparity: two people sharing the same corner of the same street, but one living atop a luxury building, the other living on the street itself.
Others might question the woman’s motives. Was she assuaging guilt? Was she proud of herself as if this made her special? Perhaps they’d get miffed at the notion of him taking care of himself. How is he to manage that with resources limited to a cigarette? (So, should she not have done that?)
Others would focus on the smoking bit, and feel perhaps annoyed by the public health “tragedy” of it all.
As I have spent some time reflecting on it, I am certainly reminded of the realities of poverty and addiction (to name but two), and of how these daily play out in different versions of this scene–and I am setting intentions to be the change I wish to see.
But for now, I choose to remove my perhaps-sanctimonious lenses that have been formed and shaped by hours of classroom discourse about broken societies. For now, I choose to set aside the anger-inducing politicization of everything–and I choose to simply be.
I choose to sit with that moment, that scene–with a sense of presence.
It was an exchange between two spirits having two very different human experiences.
And I am the better for having witnessed it.