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Street exchange

I wrote this in 2011, and stumbled across it recently. I've had many moments like this in my life, and I've come to see them as encounters with the divine. They are moments that touch me, fill me up even as I query why or how.

I strode toward home, tired after a busy day at work, but grateful for the opportunity to clear my head. I’d gone into work feeling low, unsettled by a miscommunication with my husband, and disturbed by an undercurrent of disquiet in the office. Normally jovial relationships seemed like hard work on this particular day, and work that was meant to be done was left undone.

I had climbed the nine flights of stairs to the cafeteria at lunch time, with each step wondering maybe what I am now is all I’ll ever be. Maybe I don’t have the determination or the drive to go further. Maybe I like my groove, but my groove isn’t good enough for others around me.

I had struggled all day with the demons from my young stupid life, surprised by them and immediately linking them with hormones.

“Excuse me. Excuse me!”

The woman shouted at me across a busy city street. Dressed in a black coat with a black scarf, her blond hair tumbled from under her toque. I turned, taking one iPod bud out of my ear so I could hear her words.

“I’m not a bum. I just feel like I could go home and cry. I started asking people yesterday for money on the street. I’ve been laid off recently, and I just need a bit of money to buy some food for my diabetic daughter.”

I listened, surprised by the tears rising so easily to my eyes.

“You can ask anyone around here, I’m a good person,” she said, mistaking my hesitation for reluctance.

I nodded, struck by her earnest demeanour. Taking out my wallet, I opened the change purse, thinking to give her a few toonies.

“You don’t have it. I understand,” she said, as I opened the zipper. “I just wanted to buy some meat. I just need a bit more, about $20.”

She looked around, locating her next Samaritan. My hand hovered over the wallet. I took out my last bill.

“Yes, yes, I do have it,” I said. “Here, take this. This is all I have left.”

Her face lit up when she saw the $20.

“That’s all I needed. Ask anyone around here. I’m a good person,” she repeated.

I could hardly choke back the tears.

“Don’t worry, really. You don’t have to explain to me.” I choked out the words. I reached out and placed my hand on her arm. “You don’t have to explain.”

With that, I turned and walked quickly away, tears streaming down my face. I cried all the way home, pondering why this angel had been sent my way today.

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