Last evening, the Windy City was sporadically very windy.
While I was waiting for a very long light to change, I saw a black woman in a wheelchair, festooned with bags. Those bags led me to believe she was homeless and the bags are her belongings. The woman asked a chic lady of color to help push her Walgreens drugstore on the next corner. The lady refused and then incongruously started screaming -- and I mean really yelling
-- for a cab to stop and pick her up.*
So there sat the woman in the wheelchair, her belongings flapping in the wind. The green arrow turned yellow, so I knew the walk light was next. I don't know why the woman didn't ask me for help, but as I stood there near her, waiting those last few seconds for the light to change, it seemed that I knew what I should do.
"Excuse me, ma'am," I said, "Do you need help?"
"You could push me to Walgreens," she said. I stood there for a second, expecting a "please" or "thank you." It was not forthcoming.
So I began to push her wheelchair up the street to the drugstore. I was wondering how I would get through the revolving door. I worried this would make me late I'd be for my movie MeetUp. I was struck by how vulnerable she was: she didn't know me and I was in charge of her safety.
When we got to the corner, she saw someone she knew outside Walgreens -- a man also in a wheelchair -- and she said, "OK. Stop. Thank you." I walked away.
On my way to the movie group, I was alternately pleased and annoyed by my deed.
Pleased because I try to do good. I try to live the kind of life that would please God. I try to be more Melly than Scarlett. Pleased that even though I'm a fat old lady with a bad knee, I'm still able to help.
But annoyed because she was so ... cold
about it. Is it because I'm white? I can't help but notice that she asked the camelhair-clad black woman beside me for help but not white, jean-jacket clad me. She didn't say "please" at the beginning of our ride and made no attempt to make eye contact with me at the end. I treated her with respect, and didn't feel I was respected in return.
There's a verse from The Book of Matthew that bugs me: Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in Heaven.
By being annoying with this woman for not treating me with the same humanity I showed her, am I merely respecting myself? OR am I just being silly and vain, upset that my I didn't receive more gratitude for my good deed?
*I remember thinking, "I bet she wished she could whistle like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's