The People We Don’t Know

Sitting on the steps of my front porch, the sun warms my legs. The family are inside the house behind me, their voices a familiar background noise as I watch the cars in front of me drive by. A man driving alone in his pickup truck looks deshevelled and honks his horn at the driver in front of him. Soon, several drivers are honking and cussing out the window. The man in the pickup punches his steering wheel. Maybe he’s having a terrible day. What he is driving away from? Or towards? Maybe he just got wind of some bad news and doesn’t know how to deal with it. Like his wife just found out she has cancer, or his kid is in hospital, or he just lost his job. We don’t know.

Our trashcan sits by the sidewalk in front of our house. A raggedy woman, with stringy unwashed hair, shamelessly peers inside. What could she possibly want that we have thrown away? She takes out an empty Coolwhip container and puts it in her plastic bag. She doesn’t acknowledge my staring at her and continues to walk to the next trashcan. I remember that woman from a previous morning. I had walked my sister to the school bus stop about two blocks away. On my way back home this woman stopped me and said, “Never be alone! Never! It’s too dangerous!” Then she quickly looked around as if to make sure she wasn’t being followed before changing direction down an alley. After that, my brother escorted my sister to the bus stop. Had that woman been attacked? Her house broken into? Or maybe she had a daughter that had been a victim? We don’t know.

I stand up from where I was sitting and decide to go to Fishers Grocers down the road. I invite my younger sister to tag along.  Although I am nearly ten years older, we are the same height with the same long hair, and she is wearing my old tee shirt. As we walk just a few feet away from the house, the whistles and honks began. We roll our eyes. Ghetto pervs.

At the store, my sister and I chose a box of donuts and some ice cream. Standing in line, the lady in front of us was really rude to the male cashier. She shouted and swore and threw her money at him. Other customers shook their heads in disapproval. Crazy woman. The store security guard stood close by watching. She took her bag of food and left. We paid for our sweets, and my sister made an extra effort to be nice to the cashier after that episode. As we walked through the parking lot on our way home, I see the rude lady sitting in her car frantically looking for something and sobbing at the same time. I walk over, tap on her window and ask, “Are you ok?” Her expression changed from meanness to despair. She rolled her window down and said, “I’m really sorry. I’m usually not like this. This morning my ex-husband took the kids and I don’t know where they are. I’m waiting for the police to get back to me.” My sister gasped. My heart softened as I thought about a close friend of mine who was in a similar situation. The lady started sobbing again and between breaths she muttered, “I just hate men. Hate hate hate them!” I offered a donut and said we will pray for her. She smiled and said she had to go. We watched her car drive off. I look at my sister and said, “We just never know do we?”

(photo found on flickr HERE)

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One thought on “The People We Don’t Know

  1. i LOVE this post!!!!! thank you!
    how many times we judge someone without knowing what he / she goes through … thanks that I was reminded about being loving and do not judge! … Love you so much!!
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

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