Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Wish (55); Listen

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photo by creature_cat via flickr
She was young but her spirit had already walked many, many miles. Her voice was rough, her eyes were tired, her body dragged. I saw her in the hallway after she brought her little girl to school and before she headed back to the projects where she and her three children lived. It was November in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997.

“G’morning, Tina,” I said to her with a gentle smile.
She looked up at me with a softness I hadn’t seen from her before, as if she needed kindness so badly, as if without it, she didn’t know how she would make it through her day.
            I reached out to touch her arm, to give it a little squeeze. “I don’t have anyone in my office right now,” I said. “If you have time, I’d love to talk to you.”
            She nodded and swallowed hard, trying her best to hold back tears.

            I moved my hand to hers and held it tightly as we walked back to my office. “It’s gonna be alright," I whispered. "It’s all gonna be alright.”

She told me her story that day, a story of hope and disappointment, abuse and tragedy, love and loss.
            “I apply for jobs when the kids are in school but preschool is only a few hours and I need a job to pay for childcare, but I need childcare to have a job. I am so tired, Miss Brynne, so tired. And it feels like no one cares a thing. I go to the store and no one looks me in the eye, no one pays me any mind. It’s like I’m invisible, something no one wants to see. I might not’a gone to college, but I ain’t bad. I love my children just like the other lady does, I just didn’t never get any help. I been doing it all on my own since I was fourteen.”
We talked for a long while that day and lit a few candles in that heart of hers to lighten up the darkest places. Tina cried and she cried and she cried. And I listened and held her, hard, the best way I knew how.

A few weeks later, it was nearing Thanksgiving. I knew Tina and her family wouldn’t have much but I didn’t say a thing. Until one day, the last day of school before the holiday break, I had to.
“Tina?” I said to her, after she watched her little girl run into the classroom to play with friends. “I have something for you,” and I motioned for her to come with me.

As we walked to my car, I told Tina a story about an old lady who had a lot of money. I told her how the old lady was angry and hurt because no one cared, and no one needed her, not even her money. But after a while, that old lady realized that for people to care about her maybe she needed to start caring herself, first. Maybe if she gave, maybe if she smiled, maybe if she looked someone straight in the eye with kindness from her heart, maybe then, what she needed herself would be returned.

            Tina listened and smiled to herself, thinking as we walked.

“So this old lady,” I said, “she knew I worked in the projects and decided that she’d try giving right away. So she gave me some money and told me what to buy.” I opened the trunk of my car.
Tina looked in at a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast. She covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she said. “Really? For me and my babies? Well, I never—”
            My own eyes started welling up, too. “She asked me to give all this to someone who was in danger of thinking no one cared. And for me to tell you she did. She didn’t want any thanks, she just wanted you to not stop believing that the world is a good and kind place. For it is, Tina. It is.”
We hugged that day in the cold, dirty parking lot of Raleigh’s toughest neighborhood. Around us there was anger and ugly, but the two of us, together we were our own little island. And that was all that mattered. That, and that Tina never felt indebted to me for buying her Thanksgiving dinner that year.

*          *          *

Listen. Listen to faces and eyes and words, and how she carries her body. Listen when you want to believe the world is a good and kind place. Listen to hearts with your own. Listen as you wish others would listen to you…and they will. Ohhh, they will. Yes, they will, indeed.


Michael J. Fitzgerald said...

This posting cost me $3 for a box of tissues at the airport... Very nicely said. The message is particularly powerful as the rich seem to want to crush the poor and weak, when what we really need is a rebirth of the culture of kindness we once had. Perhaps one person at a time... One blog at a time...thanks...

Brynne said...

I love how you read this. Thank you, Michael. Always warms me to find you here. Thanks for taking the time, my friend. Hugs from across the meadow:)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story Brynne!

Chronicles of Illusions said...

how could anyone not listen to the words you speak Brynne...and settle comfortably in their softness

Brynne said...

So so happy you liked it, Gilly. Your words give me a smile.:)

Brynne said...

Aww, Jo...I'm soo glad my words invite you to settle into your softness. You know, I just share the beauty that others share with me. Seems those stories are never ending. Lucky for me, I have someone to read them:)

Deniz Bevan said...

That's a heartwarming Thanksgiving story. I hope it was the start of even better things for Tina and the old lady!

Brynne said...

So glad you liked it, Deniz. I worked there for a year so I wasn't able to follow Tina very long. (I changed her name, by the way.) I do believe she found a neighbor to watch her daughter so she was able to get a job. And...later we offered GED classes and I think she enrolled in those, too. I felt hopeful for her when I left.:) Thanks for your caring, Deniz:)

Anonymous said...

I recently was presented an opportunity to help someone. Although I felt nervous and some apprehension, I helped anyway. What I realized later was that someone one was watching out for me as I helped this person in need. When we do the right thing it seems we are always taken care of if we choose to See it.

Brynne said...

ALLL smiles reading you:) Thank you for sharing, my friend. Beautiful.

RoughWaterJohn said...

I think the rich old lady was in actuality, a rich young Brynne. And by rich, I mean her wealth was in your soul, kindness and spirit. You did a great kindness, telling her a story that she would accept, and allow her to accept your gift. Thank you.

Brynne said...

Thank you, John. I thought about it a lot and knew the only way I could be sure of no shame or indebtedness...was to tell her the story of the old lady. You give my heart smiles, my friend:) Thank you.