Contributed by Lauren A. Curry
Yesterday was a road day. I spent more time in my car than I did actually visiting the program that prompted my journey. It was rainy and I was tired. Not my favorite kind of road day.
When I got where I was going I had to circle the block a couple of times to find parking. I noticed two women about my age talking on the sidewalk in front of a promising lot. Each had a heavy-looking tote bag over her shoulder, and one a big stack of paperwork in her arms. Neither had an umbrella.
While I waited to make the left turn into the lot, an oncoming car started honking its horn. The women turned and we all watched the car pass between us, windows down, middle fingers flying, jeers hurled.
It took me a second to catch my brain up to what I’d seen. It all happened fast, and at first I thought perhaps the car was honking at me. But the young occupants weren’t looking or shouting or middle-fingering in my direction. They were aiming at the two women, loaded down with work, standing and talking in the rain.
I watched the women pass quickly through startle, confusion, grimace and sigh. By the time I’d parked, gathered my own stack of folders and walked – umbrella in hand – to where they were standing, I was ready to share a moment of upset with them. I expected to find them commiserating over such a hurtful, hateful moment.
But when I drew into earshot, that’s not what I found. At least not that I could tell. They seemed engaged as they originally had been, sorting through some professional matter, and apparently moved on from the insult.
So I walked past. Without catching either’s eye. Without acknowledging my witness to the ugly thing just perpetrated at them.
Down the block I entered a bustling elementary school as it progressed through its busy end-of-day. The halls were still full of young bodies, loud young voices, and developing minds. This was where the two women had obviously spent their day. Their evenings would be busy with papers, new lesson plans, and building that next inspiring learning moment.
I don’t know who was in that car or what decided them on their insults. I’m sure there’s a story. What I do know is it left me feeling bad. And not saying something left me feeling bad.
So I’ll say something to them now, and to all of those like them:
To those women, thank you. Thank you for standing in front of a child every day and teaching them the world.
Thank you to the afterschool volunteers I was there to visit yesterday who give crucial extra support when and where it’s needed most. Thank you to the business owner I’ll see next week who, in her non-existent spare time, built a program for people isolated by difference and disability. Thank you to the retiree who came by recently who volunteers full-time fighting a far-away wrong.
Thank you to all the doers.
Your doing is important. Your doing is powerful. Your doing is so very much more powerful than middle fingers in the rain.
Lauren A. Curry has served as Executive Director of the Richard E. and Deborah L. Tarrant Foundation since 2005.