everything in its right place
This morning I found a five dollar bill on the sidewalk.
I was returning to the loft with Meaux after our morning walk ritual. It was early but there there were people around, mostly walking fast to catch the next bus or walking briskly to work. I laughed about the money and looked around to see if anyone noticed, missed it, wanted it. It didn't make sense that I should be the one to find $5 on the street. Downtown LA is full of homeless and impoverished people. But there was no one lingering on the corner or near the front of my building this morning. Everyone was bustling and rushing away.
The find bothered me all day. My thoughts turned to it while I was working in the loft, followed by a smirk and headshake.
Later I walked to a couple of errands. I mentioned to a guy helping me "I found $5 on the street today. It's so weird. It doesn't make sense for me to find it." We spent a little time talking about all the people living on the street. It turns out we both habitually kept our eye out for particular people we saw regularly. I liked the knowledge of that. A sort of ad hoc Neighborhood Watch was happening.
I returned home, picked up work. Then, just moments ago I went for another walk with Meaux (I'm a walker!). And there, in the same spot outside my building where I found the money, was an older woman sitting on the sidewalk with many bags. She was very thin and had the appearance of living on the street. She wore taped up glasses and was just sitting watching people.
I walked up to her with Meaux and she didn't seem either alarmed or interested. I said, "Do you want to hear something strange?" She nodded. "I found $5 today. Do you want it?" I was already getting it out of my fanny pack (yes, fanny pack) because of course the answer was yes.
She held out her hand and said, "I could really use it. I really could." I said, "It's yours. I found it exactly right here." She said, "God bless you," and I replied, "I'll see you later." And I really did hope I'd see her later. She was now on my Neighborhood Watch.
It felt good giving the money back to the street. That's how I thought of it. I thought of her as being OF the street. Being THE street even. Just as the bill had been when I found it. Proper order seemed restored. Not in a hierarchy kind of way, but in a justice kind of way.
As I approached the spot on the way back I saw the door man of my building and a neighborhood patrol officer on a bike were standing in the spot. The woman was up and pacing around. As I approached I heard her: "I am not loitering! Loitering implies criminal intent. I'm not intending to commit any crimes!" She was incensed and starting to yell. I looked at her face, but she was moving fast and increasingly agitated. She did not notice me. I kept walking the few steps to the front door.
Now here I am, watching the end of the day commute high above the street, feeling terrible for everyone: the woman, the door man who has to radio the patrol because it's his job, and the patrol person who must move her along...but mostly for the woman. And I realized how dumb my thoughts had been earlier about order. The street is chaos and often unjust. And yet. I'm happy she has $5. I'm still going to look out for her.