I used to walk for miles all over the city. Most days I would walk to the park, looking at all the tourists and making a circle around the fountain. Some days I would walk to my husband’s office and have lunch with him. Other days I would walk down and pick my husband up after work and we would walk home holding hands and sharing information about our day. For the last six months I haven’t walked much, because the arch on my left foot collapsed making that foot at least an inch longer than my right foot. My left leg is longer than the right one now too so I have an awkward limp.
I miss walking, so on Monday I called my husband and asked him when he would be finished at work. He said, “I can be done by five.” It was four-thirty so I said, “I’ll leave now.” It used to only take me twenty minutes to get to his office, but now it takes thirty or more.
I put on my sandals, grabbed my keys and my wallet and headed out the door.
I walked slowly down our street to a dead-end then headed West toward the water. I had to pass under the freeway where many people sleep at night and use what protection there is as a bathroom, but because of the recent rain it didn’t have a strong odor of urine. I could see the water while walking downhill, but when I turned on India Street the buildings blocked my view.
I was lost in thought and missed my regular turn, and I ended up at the train station. I wasn’t far from my husband’s office so I sent out a text, “At train station. Be at back door soon.”
As I was crossing through one of the trolley stops, a woman with blonde greasy hair, who was missing most of her teeth asked me, “Do you have some change?”
I smiled at her, and said, “I’m so sorry. I don’t have any money on me at all. No change, no bills, nothing.”
She smiled back and said, “Hey, that’s okay, you were nice and that is all that really matters.”
We passed each other both of us smiling.
I didn’t have money to give her, but in her opinion I gave her something more valuable, kindness.
I often find life’s lessons from the people on the street. They are the unknown and lost philosophers, preachers, and teachers.
They have something of value for all of us, their humanity, and their simple, but profound view on life.
I don’t avoid the street or the people that call it home, I sometimes give them what they ask for, and more often than not they give me something far more valuable in return – a lesson in giving and living.