Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring... or summer?

The daffodils are in full bloom now. Amazing. I was perusing my blog entries from a year ago, and I realized that back then I was visiting potential graduate schools with Shannon, braving treacherous weather to travel hither and yon.

Things are so different now. It's no wonder I am off-kilter. What a year of transitions. Just one year. Phew.

Speaking of being off-kilter, today I was running some errands in 80 degrees of sunny loveliness, driving the rusty old van around with the windows down, smelling the freshness of awakening plant life. I hit the Dollar Store (that's a great place to buy note-cards and dish soap) and then headed up to the drugstore.

I've been parking at the outer-reaches of parking lots. I almost always do this anyway, for multiple reasons (exercise, safety, etc.), but today I was deeply enjoying my summery walks. As I headed up toward the drugstore from the back of the parking lot, I noticed a little old man, a grisly one, standing outside the store on the sidewalk in the shade. And speaking of shade, he looked a little shady. You know that sort of pale, alcoholic look some people get? His clothes were faded and his face covered in stubbly whiskers. He walked back and forth, nervously, jerkily. I thought he made a motion to me with his hand, but I averted my eyes and continued on toward the entrance to the store.

Then he made another motion with his hand. I did not know if it was meant for me, because I was certainly doing my best not to look at him. I was now close enough to perceive that he definitely looked seedy and I hoped he was not going to try to panhandle me. Suddenly he lurched in front of me with his arms out. "Excuse me ma'am!" he hollered, "But only men can go in there!"

Without looking at him I said, "No. I can go in there." And I reached for the door. As I did, he screamed--literally screamed--with crazy laughter. Adrenaline-laced fear surged through my body and I moved faster, grabbing the door and propelling myself through.

Cool air-conditioning and familiar drugstore smells of soap, toothpaste, shampoo and hard candy encompassed me. I took a breath. I found what I needed and paid the cashier, who was in a cheerful mood to match the weather.

The man was gone when I stepped back outside.

I was relieved.

And confused. What was I supposed to have done in that situation? Had I been unkind? Lacking compassion? Rude? I never know what I am supposed to do when such things happen.

I walked the length of the parking lot to my car. All was quiet and peaceful. The sun gleamed bright. Out on the road, cars drove methodically past, stopping at the red light, starting when it turned green. The blinking sign at the jewelry store told the community that it was now 83 degrees. I climbed into my familiar old van and thought, "Why? Why is he in my world? Why did he have to come into my world?"

And I felt my sin, but I had no idea what to do about it.


Hope T. said...

Be at peace, Ruth. You are so hard on yourself and yet you are such a giving person. You were welcoming to the homeless people at your son's concert, although it was difficult for you. This man at the store needed mental health services that you could not possibly provide. You were not cruel to him and it doesn't seem like his suffering in life could be connected to your sin. It was a scary situation but you were still able to find compassion in your heart for him and by extension, others like him.

ruth said...

I hope you're right! Thank you.