A Brief Act of Kindness

Saturday morning, before we began our trek to SoCal, Fuzzy and I were sitting in our favorite bagel shop, chatting about inconsequentials, and just enjoying the day, when the Woman in Black came in.

While she wasn't really a Woman in Black, in the sense of the political group, she was a woman, and she was black-clad from her ratty hooded sweatshirt, to the cotton dress, full of holes and split to mid thigh (more on one side than the other because the seam had ripped).

When she walked, it was impossible not to see that she was wearing red, white, and blue plaid knee-high socks under the dress. I don't remember what her shoes were. Some kind of sneaker, I think. She was muttering to herself, which is really what gave her away as being homeless. As did her first action: She picked up a napkin dispenser, carried around, then sat in a corner, pulled all the napkins out, and stuffed them in her purse.

I was midway through my bagel, and the cream cheese just didn't taste right to me that morning. I'd been complaining to Fuzzy of that since we'd begun to eat. So I told him, “You can finish that, if you want,” and wandered out of the bagel place and into Starbucks for road-fuel in the form of a caramel frappucino.

A few minutes later, mission accomplished, I returned, in time to see Fuzzy handing off my bagel to the Woman in Black. And I thought, “Wow, what a cool thing to do.”

He reports that when he offered it to her, the initial response was “What is it.” A bagel, he answered, with cream cheese.

“Oh,” she replied. “I like cream cheese.”

* * *

It's her last comment that made the encounter stick in my mind. Before I met Fuzzy, my mother and I had a winter ritual of helping to cook holiday meals at a local homeless shelter, and one of the things we always boggled at was the way people who are literally scrounging for their next meal would turn away parts of the dinner, “Oh,” they'd sniff. “I hate green beans.”

I suppose it's about control. Sometimes turning down green beans can be the most empowering thing you do all week.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 A Brief Act of Kindness by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.