Writer's Cramp Entry 12/11/11
|Luke 10:25-37 Who is my neighbor?
Saturday, Sally Louise moved into her first apartment with a rocking chair, air mattress, two sheets, a pillow and a blanket, two suitcases of clothes, a clock radio, one frying pan, one saucepan, and one table setting. Job search ended, her work began the Monday after graduation. Her studio apartment had a single large window, tiny bathroom, and kitchen alcove, and was within walking distance of the office. The employment paper-work listed her as a "non-special white American," the only one for blocks and blocks.
Monday morning, she awakened early to the clock radio, the local station broadcast Mo-town and she danced around to Gladys Knight and the Pips, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" as she prepared for work:
" ...Instead, I heard it through the grapevine
Oh-h, not much longer would you be mine...,"
feeding the jukebox that played constantly in her head. This is one of those songs she would sing and whistle, without much thought to the meaning of the words. It was the music that moved her through her shower, and kept her toes tapping before and after she put on her shoes. Outside the window, a fresh snowfall covered the streets. It decorated the old buildings making her block fresh and everything clean and new. Both music and snow helped distract Sally from focusing on her anxiety.
Sally Louise walked out into her new neighborhood that Monday morning, and the short distance to the office, arriving early. Her new supervisor greeted her warmly and introduced her to her co-workers. It was a small office, and everyone showed an interest in helping her settle in. Maude was assigned to orient her to her new job. Sally sat down to a desk piled high with forms, all filled out, and ready for entry into the computer record. She was given a password, the program basics were explained and Maude assured her strong support with answers to her questions.
The day went well, Sally caught on quickly, and she was ready to leave when the day came to an end. Dressed warmly, keys and a $10.00 bill in her pocket, Sally headed home. The snow had continued to fall, piling up to about six inches by the time it stopped. Snow on the sidewalk had been churned by people coming and going making the walk home very slippery. Sally took her time. As she rounded the corner of her building heading for the entrance, a small boy came sliding and slammed into her knocking her off her feet.
"I'm s-sorry, lady!" he stammered as he tried to help her get to her feet. "I'm s-sorry." Sally could see fear that verged on terror in his eyes.
As she stood and started to brush off the snow, she smiled and said "It's okay. I'm alright. Are you okay?"
She could see he wasn't. His head turned and she followed his gaze. Two older boys were right behind. They had stopped running and were swaggering toward the woman and the boy. Sally suddenly heard the song lyrics "I'll be there, I'll be there..." start in her head. Quickly, she moved in front of the child. Smiling, she said "Better watch out. It's really slippery here."
Immediately the older boys started to mock her: "It's slippery. Ooh, we had better tippy toe..."
Still smiling and looking directly at them, she reached back and put her hand on the small boy's shoulder.
"What you got there, Lady?" They moved closer, trying to look behind her. She moved again to cover the child.
"Little brother just slipped and fell and is brushing the snow off."
"Yeah, right. Our bro. we'll take him. We'll take him home to our Mom." their voices wheedled.
"I don't think that is where he was headed, gentlemen."
"Gentlemen! That's us. How you know?" Their voices were taking on a snide tone.
Sally Louise realized she was totally out of her element. She was even having trouble understanding the boys' speech. She stood her ground, keeping strong eye contact, a half smile on her face, thinking, thinking, what to do.
"Well, gentlemen, he was about to help me shovel my car out of the snow. I was going to pay him, but it looks like a big job for a small boy, especially with no shovel."
Without hesitation, the smaller of the older boys said "can I help? What you payin'?"
The biggest boy rapped the side of Eddie's head saying with a taunting tone "Eddie says I'll help you, white woman. Just you give me some money."
"Ouch. Cut it out, Rodney!"
"Cut it out! Leave me alone," Rodney sneered.
"We got a shovel. I'll get it," Eddie said to Sally as he ducked Rodney's elbow and headed for the front door.
"You go on, Eddie. You goin' get it when Joe Henry finds out you helped a white woman!"
"Did I hear my name used in vain?" came a bass voice from around the corner. "There you go, Rodney. Think you can see in my mind."
"Eddie's goin' get the shovel without asking," Rodney whined.
"What's he planning' to do with it?" asked Joe Henry, standing tall, his dreadlocks hanging below his shoulders.
"Help that white lady," answered Rodney.
"You go help him then, and don't you ask for no pay. Go on! She's your neighbor now. On with you!"
The small boy came out from behind her and stood next to Joe Henry.
Sally thanked Joe Henry. Stevie Wonder's voice singing "You are the sunshine of my life..." started in Sally's head.