It was about 8:30pm. It was near approaching my bedtime and I was not anywhere near making my final touches on my presentation for my seminar on To Kill a Mockingbird. I had run out of shirts, which I needed for the rest of the week to look presentable in front of the teachers I will be working with. So as I set my clothes to wash around 7pm, I visited my family for a quick 30 minutes. I returned to the Laundromat, set my clothes in the dryer and set myself up at the local coffee shop. I had timed my evening perfectly so as to pick up my clothes, fold them, get an hours work in and go into a deep slumber, ready and fresh for tomorrow. I got to the Laundromat to pick up my clothes and NPR was airing their review on Harper Lee’s To Set a Watchman.
Atticus, 56 years later, is being portrayed as a eugenicist, segregationist, the opposite of the morally developed character as we know him to be. Tomorrow, a huge chunk of the seminar revolves around the the moral growth of characters, especially Atticus Finch as the epitome of “good” moral values. I toss my clothes into my IKEA bag and on my way out I am stopped by an elderly lady in her 70s.
She stops me with her kind voice and asks me “Young man are you going to Starbucks?” I replied to her with a “No, I am not.” She needed a ride to the local bus stop. Time was ticking and I could not have my clothes wrinkle. I had no time to iron or steam my shirts at this point. I had a presentation to make pretty and presentable. This human interaction was not in the plan. She asked me bluntly if I can drive her to her stop. The right thing to do was to take her to her stop. I paused, I thought, I reflected, and I could not utter the words No. That’s what I really wanted to say. Instead my reply was, “sure“, but immediately followed by “may I call you an Uber, which will take you straight to your house?”
As I am writing this, I am ashamed of my response. I should have offered to take her to her house directly. She was already walking towards my car and we had both, at this point, committed to the cause. I would trust her and she would trust me. What happened next in my mind is what I am most ashamed about…
We live in a society where we fear helping others. The lady was with a cane and multiple bags. I thought about liability issues and the possibility of her not being the little old lady she appeared to be. What if she had an agenda of harming me? Isn’t that what we hear and see on films? These all happened within a few seconds. The thoughts, I mean. I told myself even if she were to harm me, I will take her wherever she wants me to take her just so I can prove myself wrong. I should not have had these thoughts in the first place, as these are all illusions thanks to the society we have constructed for ourselves where fear and insecurity guides us in all of our actions, sometimes unfounded in any truth.
I knew the right thing to do was to help her to my fullest capacity. As a matter of fact, she had the courage to ask me for help. I dropped her off at the bus stop. She had a heavy bag, which seemed to be carrying most of her possessions she had taken with her for the day. I asked her if I could carry itfor her as she slowly, limped and exited my car. She turned around and told me “now don’t drive away with that!”
Two individuals, ages apart, lived with doubt and uncertainty but decided to share this experience. Our human interaction wasn’t able to flourish and move past our fears. I am ashamed of the things I thought. I did put my guard down and considered her needs before mine. That is exactly what I needed to do. Those are the core values that have been instilled in me. But I am still sitting here and questioning why I had those initial thoughts? She blessed me. It is getting closer to my bedtime. It doesn’t seem like I am going to get to my final touches for my work presentation tomorrow. But she blessed me, so I am just fine.