Saturday, August 28, 2010

Offering a Hand

Here is a selection from an essay I am writing.  First draft, but I thought I'd share it anyway.  Feel free to give some critical feedback!  

He looked like any other kind, elderly black man: rocking gently on the cinderblock front porch of his subsidized home, tired after years of living— having survived a few wars, the lynching of a few relatives, integration.  His slight, wrinkled body, dark and weathered by the sun and the years, seemed one with his chair. Each morning during the fall semester, I walked past the government-housing complex just a block off campus, and thought about the unfairness of life and the tragedy of a man who was forced to navigate life as a black man in a white world.  “Good morning!” I’d call and wave to him, thankful for the opportunity to share the love of God with a lonely old man.
            One particular morning, before the sun had fully risen and the haze of the dawn was still making the world seem wobbly, I was walking sleepily to class when I caught his eye.  I didn’t want to wave this morning, I was tired from staying up too late the night before watching a 90210 marathon on cable.  He blinked his black eyes slowly and they reminded me of a horse’s eyes, red and watery, but with the depth of soul and the wisdom of experience.  I stretched my lips into a half smile and raised my hand in an attempt at being friendly.  He smiled a big, toothless grin and waved his one hand back at me. Oh, did I mention he only had one arm? I immediately felt guilty. Here I was, this able bodied, young white girl, given every opportunity and I was too tired to say hello. 
            I was never really a fan of the acronym WWJD, promoted by the more commercial brand of my faith, but, this morning, I knew what Jesus would do. So, I stopped, my smile working its way to a full grin and asked warmly, “How is your day going?” The old man called something back to me, though I imagine his being toothless made clear articulation hard work.  I walked up on the sidewalk, as I had been walking in the street, and faced him.
            “What’s that?” I asked, my bright smile shining the light of Jesus directly at him. 
            “I need some love,” he said.
            Not sure I understood him correctly, I asked for clarification again.
            I didn’t want this man to feel foolish for not being intelligible.  After all, it really wasn’t his fault.  Lack of education and lack of dental care had taken its toll.  I thought it was particularly heroic that here he was, a handicapped man, every morning, fully-dressed at 6:45, in his baggy, plaid button down shirt, brown suspenders and blue Dickies.
            “I need some love!” he called louder and more clearly this time. “Twenty dollars. I’ll give you twenty dollars to come on up on this porch and give me some love.”
            Shocked, I said what every self-respecting, independent college woman would say: “No, sir!” 


  1. Always glad when there is a new post . . .

  2. wow. There is so much here. This is awesome. I probably should given it time to sink in but instead i am just going to just throw out everything swilling around my head - uh oh.
    First of all the first paragraph says everything it should, but i had to re-read it a couple of times. Not sure if it just needs a little attention or if i need to learn to read properly. If i need to be i can be more specific i can, just not here.
    As always i cannot explain how awesome your blend of truth, social commentary, humor and self deprecating honesty makes for such enjoyable reading for me. If half the people like it half as much as i do then you are going to be a superstar! (in a commercial sense not that you are not already one in your own right)
    who is the "able bodied, young white girl" of which you speak? :) jk
    This is such an interesting piece at this point because it opens in a almost stereotypical fashion of a black social commentary write but the ending makes a contrast that is a very different genre but incredibly human and real. At first it made me almost uncomfortable as if they contradicted one another, as if his comment negated his history. But it doesn't and shouldn't, it is just a real life person, full of need, hurt,paradox and life. For that it makes this already a one of a kind tale told by a one of a kind voice.
    end scene.

  3. Really like it and am anxious to read more! You are talented Sarah!

  4. so great. i agree w/ mindy... and mark... and melinda. more please.