Upon moving into the Greater Baltimore area two and a half years ago I was hit with a culture shock. See I grew up a country girl from Ringgold, Virginia—a one stoplight town with miles of cow pastures and tobacco fields. The closest almost big city is Danville, and although it’s making a bigger name for itself these days, it has always been somewhat of a sleepy city. Now that being said, growing up I had little if any interaction with the “invisible Homeless population.” My first real “I can’t ignore you” encounter came when Denise, Nique and I got off the train in Grand Central Station, New Year’s Eve, 2011 –a raw eye opener. I didn’t have enough spare change to clear my conscious or quiet my heart that night. And then a year and some change later I moved to the Greatest City in America At One Time At Least.
A homeless man, woman, boy . . . girl: crack fiends and veterans alike . . . at every stoplight, every intersection. After the first winter I spent working in the frigid downtown harbor cold, I swear my heart sank the distance of the Bur Khalifa in Dubai, and has yet to rise again. The sad part, so much of the city—to no surprise—is so immune to seeing our Homeless that they do not even acknowledge the 14’esque year old boy bundled in a blanket in the old church doorway. The one with the giant floor-to-ceiling red doors, almost at the corner of Charles and Baltimore Street. No one notices the other boy with his head hung low as the light changes again with without a single care for his existence—and if they did they’ve made it their business not to show it.
Well this morning I rose sick, but nevertheless, still high from yesterday’s kindness—the unlikely humanitarian. As I drove into Baltimore, early morning, the light between M&T Bank Stadium and MLK Blvd caught me. To my left was the first woman I’ve ever been within a giving distance of. She was on the median strip and I was 3 lanes away from Her. Before I really thought about it I blew my horn and I reached in my purse for any cash I had. I grab a $10 and I handed it out the window, she sang me many blessings and gave me the humblest chap-lipped, cracked-face smile –the smile was indeed more than enough.
Yet, ironically, this was not the moment that filled my entire being with a feeling I can’t really explain.
See Frank and I are not in any form or fashion made of paper money. Lately we’ve be grinding and saving to alleviate any stresses that could arise from Him going full-fledged entrepreneur. So heading into work I almost felt guilty for handing out amounts we comfortably could not afford. Nevertheless, by lunch I hadn’t thought much more about it. So upon leaving work, I jump in the car with much haste, turned up the volume on Michael Jackson’s Bad album, paid my fee to get out of the parking lot and made my way back onto Green/Russell Street to head home. Of course, I’d be jamming to “Man in the Mirror” when I look up and see a former war veteran, or so says his sign. I don’t know if it was MJ, or that sinking feeling, but without hesitation I reach again for my purse, this time for five dollar bills. Letting down my window I reach across my passenger seat to hand the cash out the window. The man’s face looks completely shocked. I just smile. He says “Bless you, thank you.” I say ‘No, no . . . you’re welcome.” I’m not sure why I said “No, no . . .” but it feels weird taking Thank You’s for something I feel everyone one should do. Nevertheless, he proceeds to take a step as I begin to let up my window, but he stops and takes a step backward. He peeks back in the window, just as I notice the intricate pattern the cold and wind have used to chap and crack the skin of his face. “Bless you so much,” he says just as the light changes to GO, “you’re the first person who’s even acknowledged me in an hour and a half.” I had no words. I only nodded with a smile, and he proceeded to walk the line. As I begin to drive off, I take a look in my rear-view, and just as Michael finishes his famous declaration “If you want to make the world a better place/ Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”. . . I see hands emerging from more windows.
Yesterday change my life completely, why so? I’m not sure if I know. But what I am sure of . . . when I leave Baltimore, my home away from home it will never be the same. I know this because there is art in Baltimore. and where there is art there is love,
— Yours Truly
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