I had fumbled in the glove compartment and found six dollars, surely not enough to buy a bouquet and how would I get to her? I wasn’t planning on turning the corner. I drove past her. As I did our eyes met. Time paused for me to fully absorb her pleading gaze. It was a look of pure desperation. I attempted an apologetic smile, perhaps something more like a sympathetic grimace.
I drove the last few minutes home in a haunted silence. I had just been at a one-year birthday party. The food and gifts had been abundant and in the face of that mother it all seemed so extravagant. It was a stark contrast – selling flowers to survive and three different types of birthday cake.
I couldn’t shake her pleading look. At home I gathered $20, told my husband of the encounter and left again. I parked within walking distance of her corner and made my way towards her. She offered me a bouquet as I handed her the money.
I can’t be completely sure, but I think I saw a spark of recognition. Her smile lit up her eyes and face. She earnestly thanked me and reached to hug me. I muttered that it was nothing, returned her smile and walked back to my car. Our eyes met again as I drove by and she waved and smiled. Tears stung my eyes this time as I drove home.
Buying flowers wasn’t much. Maybe it was the turning around. Maybe it was that I didn’t forget her. Whatever she gained that afternoon, I can say with certainty that I gained more: human connection, perspective, gratitude, oh and a lovely bouquet of roses.