Sydney Cleland fell down this week around her home block, and told me the story. Here’s Sydney:
“I’m taking my morning walk through our affluent, mostly white residential neighborhood when I trip on uneven sidewalk and make an undignified face plant in the grassy median. Rolling over onto my back, I lay there to collect myself. When I open my eyes, three workmen I’d just passed are standing over me. Two are black and one is white. The white man kindly asks if I need water and retrieves my phone from its landing place. One of the black men leans in, asking if I am okay and if I know my name. I say my name and that I’m okay but could use a hand up. Without hesitation, he extends his hands and helps me stand. Then, this: the white homeowner comes out her door, and before she opens her mouth the black man who has just helped me throws up his hands in the surrender position and says something like, ‘Didn’t do anything! Just helping out!’
I think I hear a humorous tone, but I’m not sure. Everyone freezes for a second. The image of Charles Kinsey of North Miami, hands raised, shot while helping his autistic patient, flashes into my mind, propelling me across the few feet between us to bear-hug this man, exclaiming, ‘No, no, no — of course you didn’t do anything!’ He looks surprised, but says, ‘Yes, just helping.’ As he turns away from my thank-you’s, he says, ‘No big deal. We are all humans, right?’
As a white woman, I cannot even pretend to understand what that black man felt or what went through his mind in the situation. But I do know how I feel. I am heartbroken that he needed to — even jokingly — protect himself from any misinterpretation of his kindness by raising his hands.
This story would have ended right there, except on the same day, I mention it to Martha, who wants an Around This Block story. She asks too much. She wants a photo of the Good Samaritan!!
What will I say to these men? Aren’t I making too big a deal out of this? Why don’t I just let the Samaritan go on his way? But I sense the story isn’t over. So without a plan, but believing that cookies make any conversation less difficult, I pick up a batch.
Tina, the homeowner, helps connect us. The Samaritan has a name, Duncan. Here are Duncan and his co-worker, Bear.
I tell him we had a “moment,” given recent events in our city and country, that we’ve experienced just a little thing, a small kindness connection, but that it feels big.
Turns out, Duncan heard me before he saw me. He didn’t know what had happened but he came running in response to the cry I don’t remember making. He tells me, ‘I don’t know about all this stuff going on, black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter. Black, White, Red, Yellow—everybody bleeds red to me. If that had been my mama or auntie and someone had just passed and not done anything, that would be terrible. I don’t see color; I just see someone who needs help.’
Duncan and I probably will not meet again, and that’s okay . We all have to start fresh every day. No one said it would be easy. Never has been, never will be. But we have to keep trying because, as Duncan says, ‘We are all humans, right?“”
Thanks, Sydney for taking the time to tell your story. May the grace of your encounter multiply a billion times today across our land. And may Duncan speak for all of us: “I don’t get all the hate going ‘round in this country. We are all human beings, right??”
How will you be fully and lovingly human this day? Sort of like these guys!?!