By Kathy Price
From a distance, I could see the old woman leaning in against the door, smacking it with her open hand, calling out to someone, unseen, inside. Her filthy, ragged dress hung off her spare frame and she radiated desperation. Curious, I continued to watch her as I approached down the dusty sidewalk.
With every step, I drew closer and considered my choices. I could avoid any interaction with her by simply crossing the street. I could insulate myself from her, ignore her, pretend I hadn’t seen. Or didn’t care. After all, she was none of my concern. Or, I could continue down the sidewalk on this side and say hello. Risk an encounter. She looked like she could use a friendly “Buenos dias” so I stayed my course.
By now, I was close enough to see the tears on her cheek. She turned away from me and sagged against the door frame, a pool of urine collecting at her feet. Shame and embarrassment shown in her eyes as she glanced up.
I, too, felt shame. My heart went out to her and I wanted to help but spoke very little Spanish. I wracked my brain but found I had no words of kindness and understanding to offer. I was at a loss to know what to say. Besides, did I really want to get involved? What could I do, really? The door she was trying to enter was locked. Even if I could explain to her I wanted to help, how would I help? Where could I take her? What could I do?
With only a few feet left between us for me to make a decision on what to do, I jumped back a little when the door in front of the old woman suddenly flew open. A gruff voice addressed her and, while I could not understand the words, the tone of voice was very unkind. A rough hand reached out to grab her, yanking her inside, leaving nothing but a puddle on the sidewalk and dismay in my heart.
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