An Odd Couple

“Go with joy. Life in faith. Believe that life is Good, and if you find it not, help make it so, To the glory of God who made us.” Those words of our minister Larry Kent inspire me on a daily basis. They inspire me to see the good in life and people who enter my life. I try to treat people with kindness and compassion. It’s important to remember what a person’s point of reference is when reacting to them. React with respect and you will often receive respect in return.

Lately the climate of our country has been so contentious. Social media has allowed people to criticize each other for their beliefs, all while sitting in the quiet safety of their homes behind their computers and watching TV. Verbal assaults are plentiful and mean. I have been criticized by my conservative friends that I am too liberal. My liberal friends infer that I am too conservative. I’ve been called out for being a “wimp” for not engaging in arguments when I’m baited. It is all too much for me.

D.W. Winnicott said “Artists are people who are driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” I will admit that I have wanted to hide a lot lately.When faced with a verbal challenge I prefer to hide in the quiet chaos of my studio. My artwork is my desire to communicate my belief that life is good. My florals and landscapes celebrate all that is beautiful in my world. It’s not that I don’t know ugliness exists, I do. So how do I address those who want me to be more vocal? Join groups and protest? Rant on social media? No. One city block at a time is my way.

It was my plan to go downtown Saturday. I needed to go to Pendleton in OTR to retrieve a couple paintings and deliver them to a gallery in Longworth Hall. The gallery owner at Longworth thinks her customer will buy them this week. Driven by this potential sale, I set the DVR to record the Buckeye game but I hoped to be home it time to watch it live. While downtown I decided to also visit my friend who planned to work in her new co-op gallery on Walnut Street. I dressed up in my new poncho and my best jeans, boots and a hat, ready for a day downtown taking care of business and enjoying a day out of the studio and not doing usual Saturday chores. The sun was out and the air was crisp. Before I left, I received a text from my friend alerting me to the fact that there were protests planned for downtown and to be careful and perhaps change my plans. After some quick googling I learned that Black Lives Matter planned to protest the jury decision of the Tensing trial and also an anti-Trump protest was taking place on Fountain Square. I was going to be in the locations of both protests but thought they would take place later in the day. Undaunted, I decided to stick with my scheduled plans. I love to stay on schedule. It’s a teacher thing.

The trips to Pendleton and Longworth were uneventful. No signs of discontent; just a sleepy Saturday morning. Meeting with the gallery owner was pleasant and the potential sale of two paintings is always a good thing. I then drove to 7th St. and parked in a garage near 708, next to Jeff Ruby’s. I toured the gallery, which is great, and then decided to walk to Macy’s where I am part of a new gallery co-op there. The artist working at our gallery had texted me some questions and I thought maybe she needed some help or relief. It was a gorgeous day and I love being downtown so there was no point in moving my car. As I left 708 I approached the corner and fell into step with an older black gentleman. We were both waiting for the light to change. He smiled and I did as well. I noticed he was shabbily dressed, missing most of his teeth and carrying a plastic bag from CVS. Part of me was fearful, but, for the most part I just wanted to cross the street and keep walking. We crossed the street and appeared to be headed in the same direction. As we approached some scaffolding, he paused to let me pass first. He said “Where are you headed on this beautiful day?” I told him I was going to Macy’s, which was several blocks away. He said he was not walking too well and for me to go ahead of him. Something inside me made me want to talk to him so I slowed down. I told him there was no hurry and that I only hoped to be home in time to watch my team play football at 3:30. I said “Saturdays should make us slow down.” I’m really not sure where that thought originated, but it’s what I said. He told me his age made him slow down every day. I don’t think he was much older than I am but I thought his circumstances maybe prematurely aged him. I wondered if he was homeless, but was not sure. I asked him where he was headed and he said he was going to catch a bus to Walmart to finally get the TV that was on layaway that he had been paying on for months. He proudly told me it’s 36″ and is going to be a great new way for him to watch football. So, he isn’t homeless if he has a place to watch football. Good. We kept walking. Our mutual love of football occupied our conversation for several blocks. We talked about Cardale Jones winning the national championship, Tony Romo probably being out of a job, Zeke Elliott and his amazing success this year, the Bengals. He seemed impressed that I could remember the names of those players when he could not. He confided that he loves basketball even more that football. He scolded me gently that I don’t watch the Buckeyes play basketball regularly. We arrived at Fountain Square and he said he was going to use the restroom before catching his bus because “Living on Ensure in a can goes right through him.” I really did not understand what he meant until later. We said goodbye. I told him I enjoyed meeting him and wished him many happy times watching sports on his new TV. He said “I’m going to think of you every time your Buckeyes win! Thanks for being so kind to an old man; you made my day!” And he was gone. Wait, I don’t know your name….too late. I could have done more, so much more. I suddenly wanted to drive him to Walmart, to chip in on the TV and buy him a meal. It was over in a flash. Such an unlikely encounter. What an odd couple we made walking through the city together. So many people were very openly staring at us. I did not care. I wanted more.

Why do I share this brief pairing of maybe 15 minutes of my Saturday? I don’t want to be thanked or commended for talking to this man. I don’t want to be congratulated for showing a little human kindness. I want only to be recognized for doing things my way…not the way you may think is right… my way of battling racism, and silencing my detractors who say I am a wimp. I am me. I am unashamed. I try to be considerate of those around me, whether it’s for the person behind me waiting in line or the clerk who is ringing up a sale. I paint what I see and do what feels right. Call me “Susie Creamcheese” or “Goody Two Shoes” if you want. I have on my rose colored glasses. It’s personal with me… one opportunity at a time; one person at a time, one city block at a time. Isn’t that what it’s all about?  Martin Luther King said “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”

I continue to “Go with Joy” and look for opportunities to help people and treat them with respect and kindness every day.

I just wish I knew his name.


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