Friday, April 6, 2012

Do Good

An elderly woman sits up in her hospital bed, places her grilled cheese sandwich on the tray, then shakes my hand. She meanders in time from one story to another. I release an impulse to make sense of what she's saying and instead attune to the feel of her words.

She says, "most people would have done nothing but I couldn't." I ask, "What did you do?" She says, "That boy,... he looked confused. There I was, lying on the ground with a broken leg. Three boys were going through my purse but he just sat there. He looked confused like he didn't know how he got there.

I said to him quietly, both of us looking down at the ground, "I don't know exacty what you're doing here, and you might get away with it. Then again, you might not. You might get caught and if you do, it could ruin your life." That's when he looked up. He said, "I'm scared." "I know," I replied."

She pauses then continues, "I don't know what he did after that. The next thing I remember is being in the ambulance."

I affirm, "you did something."

She smiles and says, "Years ago a soldier I knew came home. He wanted to be a cop but his wife didn't want him to. She was afraid he'd be shot. So he didn't try. Then one day, he went outside in the dead of Winter. He was gone a long time. He caught pneumonia and died." She pauses, looks directly at me and says in a hushed tone, "sometimes we are afraid and don't do the right thing because we don't know how to feel the hurt." Her voice cracks, and I see tears in her eyes.

"I try to do what's good," she continues, "When I do what's good it feels good." I meet her gaze. We pause in a very full silence. I offer my hand. She squeezes it. I say, "that feels good." She looks up, then blinks as more tears come.

I stay with her, breathing deeply to steady myself. I say, "you did good." She nods her head, moving it slowly up then down and with quiet fervor says, "you keep doing what you do." Now I join her, tears in my eyes, my head nodding yes as we shift together into a shared smile.