i just had to ask

naming things is what i do.

when somebody tells a story of another, i almost always will ask the name of the individual they are talking about. it just seems to bring more life to their story and honor to their being.

i live in south minneapolis and often pass by individuals standing on the street corners with their cardboard signs. a handful of times, i’ve rolled down my window with a few bills from my wallet. only is it when i reach to roll down my window do i see the man scurry over to my car, quickly dodging in and out of idling vehicles, to accept the money from my hand and offer a rushed blessing of my day (i say “man” because i have yet to interact with a woman in such a way, although i do see them from time to time). our interactions last no more than 5 seconds for he must quickly return to the safety of the curb as the stoplight changes from red to green and the movement of everyone’s day continues.

part of me feels a sense of excitement when i see the light turn red and i know i have just enough time to pull out a few dollars and reach for my window. however, after the exchange, i realize that excitement is gone and i can easily slide into the routine of my day’s path.

and i wonder why this is.

i wonder why there is such a disconnect from my interaction with this man – that i’m able to do my “good” deed and move on.

i’ve wondered this. and i didn’t really realize it bothered me so much until yesterday. until i was driving home from the grocery store. i exit the highway and there, standing on a usually vacant corner was a woman. she was a woman clad in nothing much beyond a light jacket and stocking hat. but it was raining. and it had been raining all day. and i suddenly wondered how long she had been outside, enduring this minnesota spring chill.

i passed her and just as if it was a movie, took one more look in my rearview mirror before rounding the corner to my neighborhood. two stoplights later i found myself taking a left, an unusual turn for me since my flat is two blocks down, to the right. i circled the block, and came to the intersection again where the woman was standing. pulling up to the curb, i parked my car and put my head back.

 wait, are you really doing this? what are you going to say?, i thought.

my mind was going crazy.

my heart was beating so hard, it was almost as if i was about to walk on stage in front of an audience and sing the national anthem, the words to which i always undoubtedly mess up.

but why the reaction? i was only [maybe] going to go speak to this woman i saw standing on the corner. a social interaction…i should be good at these! it should be a breeze!

i had to know who she was.

so i tried to hush my mind, and breathe deeply to slow my heart, as i opened my car door and began walking towards her.

i found my hands shaking as i stood at the crosswalk, waiting for the familiar white sign welcoming me to take stride across the pavement. the light changed and i took a step, shoving my hands deep into my raincoat, hoping i could hide them away.

as an artist and athlete, i rely on my hands to do the creating and developing. but this time…no, this time they could not be trusted to stay steady and calm. i decided to pass on the handshake, and kept my hands tucked away in the pockets of my raincoat.

“Hi there.” (so minnesotan of me, right?)

the woman turned, “Oh, hi!”, as if she had recognized me. meanwhile, cars buzzed by on the road filled with commuters hurried to get home.

we carried a brief conversation, i gave her the few dollars i had in my wallet and asked if i could buy her dinner. she graciously declined and patting her backpack, and told me another woman had recently stopped by and given her some food.

we continued on for just a minute more, and then i turned to leave. this time, when i came to the crosswalk, my legs were shaking. in fact, my whole body seemed to be trembling. i got to my car, planted myself in the driver’s seat and took many deep breaths, calming myself.

although i’m not sure, i wonder if my body was stirring up something new. something unexpected and something completely exciting. filled with adrenaline, i was completely shocked that i had actually just done that.


because you see, i just had to ask.

i had to know her name. to honor this woman. and honor her story.

so would you like to know her name?

her name was sandy.


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