Such a beautiful little, she is. I was surprised she had taken my offer of help. Surprised to feel her touch, an intimacy rarely experienced with strangers, on the streets of my good city.
Curiosity spread across me, as she allowed me to carry her items and be a helper. I am a helper, an oddball outcast, an artist. I am wide eyed and wanting, I am a change maker, really. And I do love interacting with random folks, even if the response I usually get is tepid.
I have recently taken a position in an after school program, where my title is, ‘Arts & Crafts Specialist’. I work with eleven to fourteen year olds, making art, painting, weaving, using glue and glitter, in a public junior high school setting, here in NYC.
I had just gotten off work and was walking to the subway. Going home for the day and thinking about this new job.
I have not worked with young people in an ongoing setting before. Older adults, who have taken my workshops, are willingly open to learning! But these kids are growing. They are hormonal. Tired. At an after school program. And they show it. Some are angry and challenge me personally. Some diligently do the thing I ask them to. Cardboard Weaving Looms! Portraits! A Matching Tile game, complete with box!
I received Mrs. Small as confused and defensive. She-an elder, in a dress, nice shoes, a warm coat. But holding just one of the handles of her grocery shopping bag. A soft, long, loaf of white flour bread, drooping precariously within it. A bright bouquet of yellow flowers too. Teenagers goofing off nearby, a parkway to cross.
Without thinking, I asked, “Do you need help?” She acquiesced.
Together, at the light, we crossed four lanes of traffic. Upon getting to the other side, we rearranged her items. Somehow, I had taken her cane in the hustle to make the light. She asked if I had the time to walk her home, I assured her, I was all in.
I learned that Mrs. Small has seven grown children. She’s lived in the neighborhood for forty years and that Mrs. Small had recently had a knee replacement. Her island lilt, crisp and sing song, she prattled as we walked, hand in hand. She needed and wanted the bread. Her daughter would be worried. The doctor said to walk often.
Mrs. Small had sent her children to the school, where I am now an Arts & Crafts Specialist. I do not know how long ago that was, or if her sons and daughters were able to learn about such items as tape, glue, glitter and paint.
As we walked, Mrs Small asked where I lived, if I were American and for every response, replied, “Oh God Bless you.” So many blessings.
I definitely feel greater connection to the neighborhood and to the kids I work with, because of the beautiful Mrs. Small. It is rewarding to be a helper. It’s rewarding to teach the kids, even if it is at times, a challenge. Thank you, Mrs. Small, for helping me see the neighborhood connection to my new job.