Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Woman With Walker

I was out walking my dog today when an odd thing happened. I saw an old woman with a walker walking towards me from about a block away. She is almost to an intersection. I notice she walks very slowly, almost an exaggeration of how slow someone with a walker would go.

At this point, I suppose I should point out it had snowed the day before. It was a cold morning, and the sidewalks were very icy. Philly doesn’t have the money to keep its sidewalks wheel-chair accessible, let alone enough cash to shovel or even salt them in the winter. Perhaps there was a reason for the woman inching her way towards me, as each step really was an inch. As I passed, I looked up and said hello. She looked up at me and said, “You just made me smile for the first time today.”

I was dumbstruck. I checked my watch; it was 9:46. I guess it was still pretty early. It was quite a thing to hear, at any time of day, but I kept walking without a reply.

I should have said thanks or something. I kept thinking about it as we wandered aimlessly, waiting for my dog, Barkley, to shit. I pondered the generational distance between us; I don’t know if someone from my generation would say that to a stranger. What she said seemed too honest, too genuine, too polite.

It didn’t hit me until I was back home writing about it, but what if saying that was her kind way of asking for help crossing the street? Maybe there was an implied reciprocity in her comment. What if, in an early morning haze, I neglected to help an old lady cross an icy street? What if I personify the problem with my generation? Maybe we’re all too dazed and distracted to even realize there are those crying out for help around us. Maybe only I am.


  1. i don't think she was asking for something- she probably was just lonely and/or having a bad day, and you saying hello cheered her up. :) (or maybe it was barkley, he makes all kinds of people smile as I walk by them)

  2. I hope so...

  3. As someone in a transitional stage from youth to old age, I can relate to both worlds with some degree of empathy. I recently wrote this poem, inspired by a young man's kindness towards me. It might help explain your encounter with someone much older who found your simple "hello" a day brightener.

    Thank you, Friend
    For crumbs of kindness
    We live on crumbs....
    A morsel of love
    Is all we need
    From day to day
    From week to week
    To make this Journey
    Not so bleak.


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