Going By Feel
Last week I was sitting at my desk working on something. My desk is under the window which faces Marine Drive, a virtual highway running east/west in South Vancouver. My husband was in the front yard raking leaves as it was a sunny day and we were due for rain the following day.
Suddenly he tapped on the window. When I looked up, he hitched his thumb over his shoulder and said, “Someone’s here to see you!”
Nobody ever just drops by so I couldn’t imagine who would be here to see me. Mystified, I rose from my computer and walked down the hallway to the front door. When I opened it, there stood a waif of a girl – tall and slender and unassuming, maybe in her mid 20s – at the bottom of our two-step concrete landing.
“Hi!” I said brightly. “What’s up?”
She half-turned toward the street and indicated with her hand toward the road. “I saw your signs. I really like the second one,” she said shyly. She referred to the two large chalkboards we hung on the fence a few years ago where I write quotes I find on the internet every Sunday. Sometimes they’re funny quotes, sometimes they’re poignant, sometimes they’re encouraging, and sometimes they’re just silly. They are meant to spread a little joy and take people out of their traffic-induced funk while they wait for a green light at our corner.
“Oh? I don’t even remember what they say,” I laughed. She smiled but didn’t make eye contact. I waited for her to tell me why she was there – did she just want to tell me how much she liked my chalkboards or was there something else?
There was an awkward pause. I was in a hurry because I wanted to get back to doing what I was doing so I asked, “So what are you up to?”
She spoke gently and said, “I’m just out walking and making connections with people, meeting them, talking to them…” and she trailed off.
At this point I noticed the two large reusable grocery bags at her feet, the plastic kind with the flat bottom you get from SaveOn. One of the bags was full of what looked like white scrolls tied with a string, the other bag was either empty or held only a few, I couldn’t tell from where I was standing in the doorway.
“What’ve you got in the bags?” I asked just to move the conversation along. She reached down and picked up one of the scrolls and handed it to me.
“It’s just a message for my neighbours and everybody, I’m hoping they will spread it and talk to others and make connections…” She trailed off again.
As she spoke I pulled off the string and unrolled the white sheets. There were three pages and when I did a quick scan of the top sheet I could see a sentence which said something about accepting e-transfers or paypal and a goal of $100,000.
“Ah,” I thought knowingly to myself. “She’s out spreading the word of God or she’s out collecting money for a cause.”
“So you’re out asking for money?” I asked her in a non-threatening, understanding voice. I am accustomed to saying “No!” to all sorts of door to door people – we live in a rich neighbourhood and people just assume we have money to burn. But this was different. She wasn’t aggressive or expectant or even bold. She was more like a skittish, lost cat who needed a bowl of milk. Unsure but sticking to her mission.
She answered almost apologetically, “Well, yes, I’m… uh… I’m just hoping to raise a little money… uh… so I can keep living creatively… uh…”
This sparked something in me and I was moved to give this girl the only thing I could afford: words of encouragement.
“Wow, that is very brave of you. You’re really putting yourself out there and I admire that a lot. I think what you’re doing is fantastic and when I get some extra cash I’m going to etransfer some to you.”
Her eyes widened, she looked at the ground around her and she said, “Really? Wow, that’s… that’s so… wow.”
“Absolutely!” I effused. “Now get out there and make more connections before the rain comes! Good for you just getting out there, pounding the pavement. I’m super impressed and I want you to keep going!”
She nodded and picked up her bags, thanking me over and over. I waved goodbye, walked back to my desk and threw the scroll onto my desk. I sat back down and continued with my work but the interaction hung in the air.
About an hour later my husband came in and asked if the girl had just come to say thank you for the chalkboard signs. I shook my head. He pressed for more so I shrugged it off with, “it’s nothing you would be interested in.” He nodded, probably assuming she was a bible thumper. Actually I was protecting myself from the rant which would ensue if he found out the real reason she had come to our door. He wasn’t likely to be encouraging or enthusiastic, he’s more of the suspicious type. I wasn’t in the mood to defend her so I just let him think she was spreading the word of God. He didn’t need to know the truth.
Over the past week I have looked at the scroll on my desk but couldn’t bring myself to read it. I knew her story would touch me and I was too busy to let it take up space in my psyche right now. But every day I would think about her at some point and remember that I wanted to send her money when I had some.
This weekend was a lucrative one – I made a few hundred dollars selling my baked goods at a craft fair at the Scandinavian Centre. Bolstered by a few extra bucks in my pocket, I opened the scroll today. I read all three pages and then I read them again. The last page was a poem. The other two pages were about her – not a biography but more about her values and her outlook on life and her mission and such. She writes beautifully and on paper she is unawkward, unapologetic, and eloquent.
And brave. She is brave. She isn’t sitting around waiting for good things to come to her or twiddling her thumbs waiting for a job to knock on the door. She is out there asking for help. We see #acceptance #askforhelp #mentalhealth and #bekind, but when we are faced with it, it’s quite shocking. We have a choice to make: do we live our words or do we turn heel and run?
I am certain she had a dozen doors closed in her face that day (and other days) yet she persisted, propelled by her belief in the goodness of people. I admire her SO much. It’s something I could never do, I would be too afraid of being crushed by the rejection.
Before I sent her an e-transfer of $30, I checked her website. There is a place where she updates the money she collects. Her update read Current Gift Money: $5. She had raised $5. How long did she knock on doors that day? Her second bag was surely empty by the time she got home. Perhaps she just hadn’t updated the amount? But it had a date! As of Saturday the 23rd, she had made a whopping $5.
I sent her $50 which is deposited directly into her account, no passwords required. She will see my name but she won’t have any way to contact me. She won’t know which of the connections she made that day sent the money and that’s the whole point – it doesn’t matter who sent it. I didn’t send it for her gratitude – I know she’s grateful – I sent it to support her, so she knows someone believes in her ideals and thinks what she’s doing is wonderful. She’s looking after herself, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and that’s amazing. We should all be so brave.
If you have even $5 to spare, please, please, PLEASE send it to her. Imagine how $5 would buoy her to keep fighting, keep moving, keep being brave. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you don’t have money to spare, I hope you feel inspired to share her website and her message. You can find it here:
It’s been two hours since I transferred the money. The update now reads Current Gift Money: $55.00