was her paper bag shoes that caught my eye. An old woman
was sitting in a doorway, round and dark. She wore a blanket
tented over her body; she did not move. I looked down
at my new leather shoes, the trendy yellow stitching.
As I crossed the street the heat rose in my face and turned
my mouth sour. By then I was walking past a slick sporting
goods shop on the corner: the hiking boots shone sturdily
through the plate glass. I'll do it, I thought, my heart
racing. I'll get her some good shoes.
excuse me ma'am? What size shoe do you wear?"
these?" she asked brandishing her feet. "I made them myself,"
she bragged. "I know they're looking a little tatty, but
I've got the bags to make some more." She opened a sack
full of neatly-flattened paper products.
I get you some shoes?" I asked.
I know what you're up to," she said kindly. "You
human! I don't need any shoes."
I was dumbfounded. In that one clear
and reproachful phrase, "You human!" I learned
how much easer it is for me and other well-meaning folks
to ask "Can I give you this?" than to ask the real question,
"What do you need?"
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved