Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 01/15/2019

Tick tock

45382458I had time.

Time enough to understand that this young woman, irrespective of her addict-status, needed to talk.  About her mom who just broke her hip and dislocated her shoulder in a fall on an icy Kansas City sidewalk.  About her psoriasis, that oozed and stung on her glove-less, chapped hands.  About the mammogram she had two years ago which uncovered three lumps in one breast and two in the other.  She never could scrape the funds together to go and do the biopsy she needed.

I handed her the list of services available to her at our free clinic. She clung to that sheet of paper, embracing this unexpected resource.  Grateful. Maybe not just for the piece of paper, but for not being judged for the ragtag clothing she wore. Pants swallowing her, held up with rope, too small a coat, that barely wrapped around her, not quite able to merge the two parts of the zipper together.  It had a campfire smell, mixed with odor of stale tobacco.  Hair that begged for a shampoo.  Fingernails dirty. After she left, I sat for a bit, ignoring the fact that there were others waiting to be seen…and had an epiphany.  This volunteer job wasn’t about handing out flyers.  It had nothing to do with agencies that could help or phone numbers or pamphlets about safe sex and drug safety on the street.

This was about having time.  Time for whoever came through that door.  Offering those down-on-their-luckers warmth, someone smiling, instead of the disgust of passersby who used the sidewalk as a way to get somewhere rather than a “dwelling”, where they lay their head each night.

Time. Fleeting.  Never-get-backable.  It keeps going, in much the same way an escalator doesn’t wait.  But I could be that agent of change.  I could throw the ticking of the clock out the window and give everyone who came through the door the gift of stay-awhile.

And how many times have I not taken the time?  Rushed a toddler, trying to get out the door, already late.  Or been short with someone on the other end of an l-800 number trying to sort out a billing issue.  My voice becoming more clipped as I am asked to recite what seems like an annoying and unnecessary litany of security questions.  Or someone in the grocery checkout ahead of me, when she realizes that she’s forgotten milk and makes a mad dash back to dairy while I wait.  Tapping my foot.  Exchanging a knowing glance at the cashier.  Not quite an eye-roll, but close.  Or begrudgingly letting someone over into my lane when the traffic is already backed up for miles.

Yup.  The Catholic in me roars to the surface every so often.  “For whatever you do to the least of my brethren….” (Matthew 25; 40-45)

Tick tock.



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