Monday, July 1, 2013


I was sitting on some stairs near the entrance of Union Station in Chicago.  I had about 40 minutes before the Megabus was supposed to leave for Louisville and I didn't want to stand out on the street to wait yet. Some people were walking through the station.  Others had found their own spot on the steps to sit with their luggage.  My assumption was that they, too, would be boarding a Megabus sometime later, but who knows?

As I have neglected this blog, I have also neglected my personal journaling. "Now maybe I can get a little caught up."  I started writing.  The words were pouring out of me and the world around me became an indistinguishable blur and buzz.

After a few minutes of writing, out of the corner of my eye, I became vaguely aware of a man talking to a woman seated on the stairs a few steps down from me.  I noticed them enough to know that they didn't know each other and that he'd asked her for something.  I kept writing and hoped the intruder wouldn't approach me next.

"Hi, I see you're busy writing.  Can I interrupt you for a second?"

I don't know if my sigh was visible or audible, but I certainly felt it inside.  I braced myself for whatever request he was going to make, pretty sure I would turn him down, regardless of what he asked for.  I reluctantly stopped writing and looked at him.

"Hi, my name is W____. I was in jail (he told me for how long, I was still only partially tuned in) for retail theft and I'm trying to turn things around.  Could you help me get a bus pass for the week?" I think he said he wanted to go out and apply for jobs.

"No, sorry."  I was ready to resume writing.

"Are you a writer?  I can tell you're a writer because you were so intense in what you were doing there.  I'm a writer.  What are you writing?"

Another inward sigh.  "Yes, I'm a writer.  I was just journaling."

"What do you write?"

"I journal...and I have a blog."

"I'm a writer, too. I've never read a blog, but I'd like to.  I could read yours and give you some positive feedback. What do you write about?  Do you have followers?"

"I have a few followers.  Not many people are signed up as followers, but I know other people follow me without being signed up officially."

"What's your blog address? I want to read your blog.  What's it about?" He took a small booklet out of his pocket, though I couldn't tell what the booklet was, and a pen.  He opened up the cover. He was serious?

I really didn't want to answer his question.  Did I really have to tell this guy that I wanted to leave that my blog address is Truly Love Thy Neighbor? That it is about how I am trying to do just that ... when in this particular moment I was doing the exact opposite?

"Truly Love Thy Neighbor."

He wrote it down. "Oooh.  And then?   Dot com?"

"Yes," I admitted.  I waited for him to call me out on my clear breach of ... everything my blog title states I believe.

He didn't.

"What's your name?"

I told him.

"With a C or a K?"  And he wrote that down, too.  He closed the booklet.  It seemed to be in French.  Later he said he speaks French.  He continued to talk to me, asking me questions about my writing and about the blog. He told me about his own writing (by this point I had decided to ask a question or two also)- a novel and a "how to" guide for men in dealing with women; neither has been published. We talked a little about religion.  We clearly had different ideas, but we exchanged a few thoughts.  He told me I should read up more on other religions, so I could see how they're flawed.  I said I think we should self-examine first before condemning everybody else. This, of course, from the woman who'd been ready to write this man off without even looking up from my journal. It's probably more accurate to say I'd been ready to never write him in than that I was trying to write him off.  I wanted him to be nobody, to never appear in the story.

After about 10 minutes, he got up and maybe said, "Thank you" and "Nice to talk to you." He restated his name and reiterated that that he'd read my blog and give me some positive feedback.  Then I think he walked out the door.  I don't even know.

I can't tell you what he was wearing.  I can tell you he was African-American, though I don't know how old he was. I'd guess he was in his twenties.  Even though I semi-engaged with him, I never really noticed him.

But I knew I had to write about him.  To write about my utter failure, my strong resistance, to loving my neighbor.  And his persistence in not letting me ignore him, in not letting me never write him in.

After he left I jotted a few notes about him in my journal, closed it, and headed outside to stand and wait for the bus.  To stand where people were less likely to strike up a conversation, to break through the safety of aloneness or I'm-with-these-people-only-ness.  The bus arrived early.  I got on and guarded two seats, supposedly so that I could sleep more comfortably.  I shielded myself from other people by playing a game on my iPod until everyone had boarded, everyone was safely in their own don't-bother-me zone, and the lights were out.  It was so easy to go back to disengagement.

I am grateful that for the few minutes W____ pushed me out of my comfort zone as he pushed his way into my consciousness, prodded me to practice what I preach (without ever hinting that I don't do so), so that I can admit to you my own hypocrisy.  Maybe if enough people like W____ keep pushing through, I'll get it, get it not just intellectually, but in the marrow of my bones. Truly loving my neighbors means looking at them, talking to them, listening to them.  Noticing them.

I don't know if W____ will ever look up my blog.  I hope he does.  I hope he sees that I wrote him in, that he wrote himself into my story.  And that I am grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I isolate myself in the same way most of the time. However, sometimes I look around me craving an interaction with a stranger but all I see is people playing a game on an iPhone or otherwise appearing to be in their personal zone...the same way I am much of the time.