Be kind, everyone. Every person you meet is a human being, no matter where they come from, no matter what they look like on the outside.
I had an encounter today with a pregnant woman panhandling in the Glebe. Just moments earlier, she had allegedly been attacked by some stranger passing by. The man had screamed in her face, threatened her, and then kicked her belongings all over the sidewalk before he left.
I wasn't there when it happened. Another man was; he was already on his phone with the police.
There wasn't anything I could do to help; I could have kept on walking. Instead, I hunkered down beside her and listened.
She was terrified and angry, and so very alone. Why would someone do this to me? I never even ask people for money, I just sit here. She told me about how she was trying to clean herself up, how she managed to finally get into an apartment after living on the streets for so long, how she was being so diligent about attending her prenatal appointments and meeting with her care workers.
She cried while her dogs stood vigil at her side, growling at everyone passing by. I offered her coffee, or food, maybe some soup considering it was so cold? No, she said, thank you anyway. I just want to get this over with and take my dogs home.
A police officer arrived shortly after. The woman started gathering up her things. I slipped her some money and told her to look after herself, and that I wished her and her baby well. She looked me in the eye and leaned in, hugging me in a fierce embrace. Thank you, she mumbled. Thank you for staying.
I'm not writing this for praise or to lecture; I'm not sure why I felt the need to put it in words. Maybe to reaffirm this woman's place in the world, a person who would otherwise remain invisible to the rest of us as we carry on with our busy lives. Maybe I wrote this to remind myself of how close we could all be to ending up in dire straits, and that sometime in the future, we'll all depend on the kindness of others to help us through.