After a particularly long workday, I was driving down Woodland Street en route to the Turnip Truck for some dinner goods. Realizing I had some letters to mail, I stopped at the post office and dropped them in the box. Before I could get back to my car, the woman selling newspapers outside hollered that she had a question for me: “Can you give me a ride home?”
It was hotter than the eye of a blowdryer outside, she was carrying about 18 bags of things, and I sympathized. I wouldn’t have thought of offering but it was definitely the nice thing to do, so why not? “Sure,” I replied, and with that she hopped right in. She asked me for my name, even though we recognized each other – I’ve seen her most every day for the last 3 years at least, the sweet black lady who usually says, “Hey Baby” (like a sassy, southern mama bear) when I see her. I learned her name for the first time as well. I continued along Woodland, silently planning my trip to the Turnip Truck (hopefuly this would include a smoothie sample) when she informed me that she lives in Madison. Immediately my paradigm shifted from my pleasant grocery trip and the particular items I wanted for dinner to the realization that I would now have to visit a grocery store in Madison or even Rivergate (my ultimate destination was in fact all the way up to my new residence in Goodlettsville). My heart sank a little but I turned the car north towards Madison and away from my beloved natural market. I told myself to quit all that nonsense and be grateful for the opportunity to help someone out but visions of smoothies were still dancing in my head.
We tried to make conversation on the 15-minute trip up north weaving in and out of traffic. I kept telling myself to “just be cool.” I was trying not to say something silly like some petty gripe that might normally come up in an everyday conversation but would seem rather insulting to someone whose job it is to stand outside 8 hours a day in the heat and cold, rain and snow, selling The Contributor for $2 apiece. So, I mostly just listened. Turned out she was born and raised here in Nashville. “We seen a lot,” she kept saying. “Things gonna get worse ‘fore they get better. A lot worse,” she said in response to her mainly one-sided conversation about the “improvements” in the area, which I’ve heard others refer to as gentrification. She seemed sorry for the young folks living through it and getting into trouble. Saddened by family members who have gone to jail or been killed. “They need a job, something to do. They NEED Jesus!” I nodded and tried to imagine life in her shoes… Our lives were different but we shared faith.
We got to the duplex where she lived, she got out and thanked me for the ride. I felt like it wasn’t nearly enough … but in the moment realized, what could I have done that would have been enough? Maybe it was just right. For today. I gave her what she needed in the moment…. I continued up the road. I called to tell my husband I’d be late because I’d gone off-course and also hit rush-hour traffic. He then asked me to stop at Walmart for some additional items since I was going to pass by the one on Gallatin. Getting hangrier by the minute, I agreed with an extra bit snappiness. I knew I was going to need something to eat to get me through the rest of the less-scenic driving route and the additional unpleasant errand. I pulled into the nearest grocery store, which was nothing like the pristine aisles of Turnip Truck with the stylish folks that frequent it. Here in Madison, I grabbed the first roasted chicken I found, Caesar salad in a bag, and a bottle of white wine (an impulse buy which seemed justified at this point).
Continuing on up the road, I pulled into Walmart, turned off my car and decided I needed to eat a chicken leg NOW. Realizing that the wine was a twist off bottle, I figured I might as well have a couple sips before going inside, then grabbed my purse and headed through the automatic doors with my chicken leg and greasy fingers. Another lesson in embracing the moment. I didn’t need the Turnip Truck. It would always be there tomorrow. And maybe letting go of attachments was the very thing I needed to be reminded of. Every moment of every day, I’m making plans and then trying to carry them out. But I’m not here just for myself. I can put my plans or desires on the back burner from time to time, and maybe sometimes, like today, that will be ultimately more rewarding.