In the last two days, I’ve noticed some people in need crossing the street.
Yesterday, a 30-something man crossed a busy street during rush hour when he shouldn’t have. No sign indicated it was safe to walk, no cars were stopped. He simply stepped off the curb and began making his way to the other side. Instead of honking, people slowed and waited patiently while he made it across. As he walked, he was gesturing wildly, yelling at nobody in particular and casting concerned glances skyward.
Today, I saw a homeless woman wrapped up in a puffy sleeping bag, slowly making her way in a crosswalk, walking with what appeared to be her life’s possessions in two small tote bags. Her hair was long, gray and matted. She had a brimmed hat on, and light blue jeans that looked more like khakis because of the dirt on them. She was also holding up traffic, but again, nobody honked.
A few paces away from her, an elderly man tried his best to hurry across the street to a waiting bus. When the blinking sign indicated, everyone else waiting to cross walked at a normal, if not slightly speedier pace. From his first step, he was falling behind. I was the first car waiting to turn left, and as people passed in front of me, I noticed the man with a pained expression on his face trying his best to keep up. I glanced back at the bus to see if it would wait for him, and it did. I wondered for a split-second if anyone had ever put their plans on hold to give a ride to someone who didn’t happen to make it onto their bus in time.
Seeing these three people made me wish I could give them a taxi, of sorts, to take them wherever they needed, or back to a time when things were better in their worlds. It’s impossible to look at someone and know what they’ve been through, why they’ve gone through it or for how long their life has been a certain way, but it’s not implausible to think that six months ago the woman with her sleeping bag was actually a woman with a family, a roof over her head and a job to go to each day.
It’s not absurd to imagine the elderly man as a vibrant retiree 15 years ago.
It’s not impossible to think that the 30-something man might’ve been the valedictorian at his junior high or high school graduation, after which life might’ve dealt him a few bad hands that added up to the situation he’s in today.
Yes, part taxi, part time machine would be grand. To help people who can’t walk quickly enough to a waiting bus — or who shouldn’t have to rush after having lived such a long life; to give people a chance for a do-over, to help people start over when maybe they don’t have the strength or energy to do it on their own in the present.
Tonight I am thankful for all that I have, and for seeing the patience that people exhibited towards these three in need. Even if we can’t be part taxi, part time machine, we can pay the patience forward and make someone’s existence a little less frenetic, less stressful — even if only for a few moments.