This morning I waited to dart-and-dodge across the six lanes of Route 139 and get my run started. I savored the moment’s perfectness: it was well before 9:00 a.m., clear, sunny, dry pavement, no wind. My legs felt fresh, and I was comfortable in my high-tech, wick-away-the-stench running clothes. I didn’t pay much notice to the woman standing off to my right until I heard the prolonged sound of a car horn. I looked and it was the driver of a van emphasizing to the woman that he would stop for no one, not even her, a woman on crutches.
D***, I thought. I looked ahead to Summit Avenue, and mapped out routes in my mind: Would I go into Hoboken, run along the river, and have assured access to port-o-potties and water fountains? Or maybe sprint the hills along the Western Slope neighborhood?
I took another look at the woman. Her crutches were on the asphalt of Route 139, but she contemplated the three-inch curb like it was a six-story drop. I just wanted to get my run started, but all I could think of was this woman never getting across the road, or stepping off the curb at the precise moment when a tractor trailer or bus barreled toward Kennedy Boulevard. I approached to ask if she needed help, and I noticed the worn clothes, ill-fitting sneakers with mismatched laces, and disheveled hair. It would have been more convenient to just cross and get my run started. No one would know.
I would, though. Delaying my run would annoy me, but seeing something and choosing to do nothing would disgust me. My husband B asked how my run was when I returned home, and couldn’t figure why I was cheery when I answered that I never even got the chance to start. I helped the woman cross Route 139 (is my calling to be a crossing guard?), chatted with her along Summit Avenue, got her breakfast at my favorite deli, and learned her name is Debbie. She thanked me before I left.
“God bless you,” she said. “I really mean that.”
I knew she did, and I meant it too when I said it. I say it only when someone sneezes, and even then I leave the God out of it. Not to get all Tiny-Tim, but I did beseech a higher power as I walked away from Debbie to return home. I asked it to watch over Debbie and provide only kind strangers to encounter as she hobbles through her days. I’m blessed to have the means to be generous, and I hope to remember that each time I’m confronted with the choice of whether to share or not.