While unpacking boxes and more boxes, there were so many boxes it seemed like they must be finding a way to reproduce.
In the heap I uncovered my baby book. I'm not very sentimental. And by not very sentimental I mean that last year I gave my wedding dress to one of my high school students to turn into an art project. (I thought that this was a brilliant use of the wedding dress, while others seem to think that it was a signal that I was getting divorced... really? Nope, not getting divorced, just never plan on wearing the dress again, and thought that if it could bring someone else joy, why not?)
Back to the baby book. While my mom didn't write a lot, one of the things that she did note each year was that I was sensitive. Not in the way that I cried over everything, but sensitive to the world and the people around me.
That sensitivity and curiosity never left.
Each day I walk a mile to and from work. I walk on a street that isn't considered overly safe ( however, I think it's more people's fear talking than reality) I walk on a street that is littered with trash, and being taken over by poverty.
The first few times that I walked on the street I was scared, my heart raced, and I prayed every step of the way. I was scared because I was told that I should be. I kept walking anyway, because I'm stubborn, and because this was my road to freedom, this was the decision that allowed me the space to leave my teaching job, it was longer and steeper than I'd imagined, but I refused to stop walking. I was tempted to make myself look poor, not wear my nice clothes and try to blend in (somehow that seemed like it would be safer.) I didn't, because that would be giving into the exact thing that I was trying to get away from, I was trying to find myself, not trying to lose myself.
So I put on the clothes that I wanted to wear, I slipped my feet in my favorite wedges, and I walked that street over and over again. I looked up, made eye contact, and said hello. I kept walking until I wasn't afraid.
With each hello, a bit of fear disappeared.
With each mile, I watched, listened, and questioned.
See him, the newborn, dirty but marvelous, ridiculous in actuality, infinite in possibility, capable of that ultimate miracle-- growth. Can you conceive it-- that this queer bundle of sound and pain will come to know love, anxiety, prayer, suffering, creation, metaphysics, death? He cries; he has been so long asleep in the quiet warm womb of his mother; now suddenly he is compelled to breathe, and it hurts; compelled to see light, and it pierces him; compelled to hear noise, and it terrifies him. Cold strikes his skin, and he seems to be all pain. But it is not so; nature protects him against this initial onslaught of the world by dressing him in a general insensitivity. He sees the light only dimly; he hears the sounds as muffled and afar. For the most part he sleeps. His mother calls him a 'little monkey,' and she is right; until he walks he will be like an ape, and even less of a biped, the womb-life having given his funny little legs the incalculable flexibility of a frog's. Not till he talks will he leave the ape behind, and begin to climb precariously to the stature of a human being.
Watch him, and see how, bit by bit, he learns the nature of things by random movements of exploration. The world is a puzzle to him; and these haphazard responses of grasping, biting, and throwing are the pseudopodia, which he puts out to a perilous experience. Curiosity consumes and develops him; he would touch and taste everything from his rattle to the moon. For the rest he learns by imitation, though his parents think he learns by sermons. They teach him gentleness, and beat him; they teach him mildness of speech, and shout at him; they teach him a Stoic apathy to finance, and quarrel before him about the division of their income; they teach him honesty, and answer his most profound questions with lies. Our children bring us up by showing us, through imitation, what we really are. -- From Will Durant's Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God
I see many of the same faces, exchange hellos, and wonder, how did they end up there?
One man in particular stands out. I would guess that he was in his 50s. He sat on the porch everyday, smoking and drinking coffee with a few others doing the same. Each one looking like they've led a rough life, and each one seemingly never leaving the porch.
Now the porch is empty, all that is left is a handwritten note, that if I didn't know any better I would guess was written by a child. It's in pencil, on a torn scrap piece of paper, the print is shaky and unsure, telling when and where the service will be, and I wonder, how many people will show up?
What kind of impact or legacy did he leave behind?
And then I wonder, who he was, before he forgot. I wonder what he could have become if someone believed in him. I wonder how long ago he gave up, and sat on the porch. Or did the world give up on him, making him, a poor black man, feel out of options.
I wonder who you are, and if you're on the path to becoming more or less of yourself. ( I've been on both; neither is easy, but only one is worth pursuing.)