Monday, April 20, 2009


This Sunday was a day made for dark thoughts.  Grim clouds gripped the sky, like the last tendrils of winter refusing to let go.  Rain fell cold.  It was one of those times when the world seems like a dreary place where every dream, even those as simple as warmth and light, feels out of reach.

Also it was the second day of a weekend spent mostly indoors, and completely in drab.  As stressful as it is to work where you are not accepted, it is even harder to go home and sit idly, waiting for things that are weeks, months and years away. 

I had not shaved all weekend, because the stubble left over from laser seems to shed a little easier if left alone.  I was giving my hair a break from flat ironing, and the humidity and showering had left my hair frizzy and full of random curl.  In the mirror I looked to myself, not only male, but feral besides.  And so I was spending my weekend feeling like an ugly creature, locked away from a cold and un-accepting world.  

Then Mom and Dad asked if I would like to ride out with them for a little lunch and I accepted. And so, I left unshaven, with ratty hair, a men's tee and baggy jeans.  I was still feeling bad about myself but getting outside and talking to Mom and Dad made me feel a lot better.  Then as we left for home, there was this man beside the road.

The cold rain was still falling, and he was standing on the road shoulder, head lowered.  A neglected sign asking help hung in his hand.  He looked completely defeated standing there in the downpour. It was a heartbreaking thing to see.  

Mom wanted to give him cash. Dad argued that you didn't know what he would do with it. I stayed out of it, because I use plastic and never carry money anyway. I was pulling for Mom though. He just looked so pitiful, and you would have to be desperate to stand in near freezing rain in hopes that a few people will help.

In the end, Mom did get Dad to stop. And I was on the side of the car facing him, so I was handed the bills.  He didn't notice us with his head lowered, so I addressed him, "Sir? Here take this."

And then he looked up.  He was probably in his late fifties or early sixties.  He looked like he had seen some hard years, but his face was dominated by a sincere and grateful smile. As he took the money, he said, "Thank you miss."

Then he hesitated a moment, looking a little embarrased and perplexed. He stepped closer to the car, straining his  obviously weak eyes. "Or, sir?" he said. "I'm sorry."

I smiled and shook my head. "It's ok." I said with a little laugh.  Then the window was back up and I was riding home.  His vision was definitely not good . But going by my voice and the limited visual cues he could, he had seen what others ussualy can not.  His first assessment was right. I am a woman.

Mom and Dad never mentioned, and didn't seem disraught.  I rode home feeling a bit better.  This man's simple thank you was a powerful validation for me.  And his situation reminded me how truly blessed I am. How can I feel alienated, when I'm employed, and have a loving family supporting me, despite my life path being one they find hard to accept.  I have my health. I have my vision. I have a place to call home.

And  though the world can be cruel, it is not fair to assume people are. There's no way to know how this man will spend the money he gets.  There is always that possibility that he is wasting others' wages on cigarettes and liquor. Yet people have the compassion to stop and give him the benefit of the doubt, and hope he will buy some food and take care of himself.

I'm happy. I got recognized as a girl even while I was trying to do the guy thing, which felt nice despite the extenuating circumstances.  And I got a little reminder of how silly self pity is, and a small lesson in human compassion.  Its interesting how much can happen in a brief, chance encounter.

I hope he is safe and sound somewhere tonight. He seemed such a sweet soul.


Leslie Ann said...

I keep seeing new depths to your heart, Shan. You have much more compassion than the average bear. Your true self just naturally shines through.

Tina Jenson said...

A wonderful life example. Everyone on a different journey, each one with it's own life challenges. By chance, two strangers meet and both depart better for it. That makes me smile. You're a good egg sister!

oh, and btw...I've spent most of my money on tobacco and alcohol...the rest I just wasted.


Anonymous said...

That is sweet. I give if I can. I often think how they will spend it too. But I say a little prayer for it to help them. Mainly, if I can, I go to a fast food place and get them a number one of what ever is on the menu. This way I know their gonna eat and not spend it on something harmful.

I love getting called ma'am. It's happened to me in full on boy mode which makes it even sweeter. That... "er...em.. I'm sorry" look is priceless.