"Looks like you got your hands full!"
"You been shoppin'?"
"No. I don't really go shopping."
"Yeah, me neither."
"Hey, I was able to get on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)." She says the full phrase instead of the acronym, thinking I may not know.
"Oh, I'm glad! Did it take a long time? I hear that can take a lot of,"
"Yeah. Took forever."
"I'm glad you stayed on it."
"Yeah, my family kept pushing me. When I finally got food stamps my Grandma shook my hand."
I looked at her smiling face. I didn't miss a beat as I said, "that's so great," but her last sentence stilled something inside me. Her bald voice was plaintive and honest, unaware of the smallness of the event she had just described- because, of course, for her it wasn't small. Some of us don't have the luxury of being acknowledged by our loved ones whenever we so choose. It was one of those statements which unwittingly reveals volumes, and I'm glad she felt comfortable enough- in my living room full of strangers- to share it.
I imagine if she came across this post she might feel embarrassed. Don't be, my friend. I hope you can instead feel proud- of possessing a character whose virtue isn't distracted by the supercilious judgments of others. People don't talk about character anymore; they talk about personality. I feel differently. Integrity, constitution, perception: for me these considerations trump temperament and lifestyle preferences any day.
I share her open honesty in same spirit in which she did with me- truthful in a public space, bold enough to be vulnerable, and unafraid to sound like anything other than what she was- excited about something real, and pure.
(The above image was taken at the old Women's Shelter, which once occupied what is now the American Hotel on King Street.)