It seems that I may have been given an opportunity to redeem myself for not helping out a stranger the other day. This is what I’m thinking this morning, after I hand over the wad of cash to my neighbor. Wednesday morning, my elderly next door neighbor knocks on my front door to ask me for a couple postage stamps. I usually have a stash, but had recently run out, so I could not help her. But I stood at the door and listened to her for a few moments, as she was clearly distressed. She is frail and sad and on her own since her husband died last year. She tells me that she is not in good health and she just wants to die. I’m in my bathrobe with a towel on my wet head, otherwise I might have stepped outside to give her a hug. Instead, I take her hand in mine while she whimpers a bit more (I hope I don’t sound sarcastic, because I don’t mean to be) and I go inside to get dressed and go to work. This morning, at a little after 7am, she comes to my door again, and this time she’s even more distressed. She hands me a hundred dollar bill and asks me for change so she can take a cab to the hospital. I don’t have the change, but I tell her I’ll go to QFC and get some. I throw on yesterday’s clothes and my shoes, forget my glasses, and rush over to the supermarket, preparing my speech to convince the cashier to give me change without making a purchase. When I get there, no explanation is necessary and I head back home with a bunch of bills folded inside my fist. I decide then that supermarkets are banks for people without bank accounts, and I’m happy they exist. I hand over the cash and continue with my day. I didn’t hear her leave, but I’m pretty sure she must have.
This is when I think that this was my opportunity to make up for a couple weeks ago, and I’m comforted by that thought. And then I think, on a different tack, maybe it’s been her anxiety I’ve been feeling for the last few months. I’m not a stranger to mild anxiety, but for several weeks it’s been quite agonizing for me. I’ve often felt I have some sort of psychic connection with others at various times, and I think I vacillate on whether I’m a sender or a receiver. Today I think maybe I’m both, but I’m a one-way transmitter. In other words, if I’m in a mode of receiving, such as maybe I’ve been for my neighbor recently, I can’t also send anything out to anyone. And maybe it’s to do with biorhythms, if those actually exist. It’s all just crazy talk, I’m sure, brought on by being startled awake by a scared woman nearing the end of her life.
You have to also understand that I’m not really good with people. I generally don’t like touching people, even people I like, and I have a horrible bedside manner. But I felt for this woman I’ve lived beside for the last five years, and thought I really need to do something to comfort her. Standing at the door with my neighbor, I thought to myself, “how would Meg handle this situation?” I could never emote the way she can, but I tried to channel Meg as best I could to allow some intimacy. I held her hand, I stroked her arm, I offered some, hopefully, encouraging words. I suppose I did OK. When I gave her the money I had changed at QFC, she told me, “I will never forget you. You are all I have.” Which is, of course, not true – she has family nearby who come by fairly often. But it made an impact, and hopefully I did on her.