I called her Walking Lady
((Sometimes when I find myself in the middle of an experience that I have trouble wrapping my heart and mind around -- when I know I need to "do business" with it, the only thing I know to do is write it out through the keys on my computer. Sometimes I write it out in a post to publish, but in most moments like this I write it in an email to myself and just let it be. This post today comes from a few weeks before Christmas. It's been on my heart again, so I thought it might be time to share it.))
I brought myself to Portland Brew Coffee. A retreat and bit of a luxury to come and have alone time in the middle of the day. Two kids at home with their daddy. One about to wake up and enter her “witching hour.” Sunday school to write. A month of learning and teaching about money. I put on my new fancy necklace. My favorite j.crew plaid shirt. A plan to listen to Christmas music as I read, research, and write.
As I was parking I saw Walking Lady. I always see her. She walks miles everyday all around East Nashville.
I park and don’t think anything of seeing her.
I go inside.
There she is.
Sipping coffee. Like a normal real life human being. She sips coffee. She isn’t just some alien walking lady.
I immediately feel like crying as the site of her inside my neighborhood coffee shop humbles and convicts me. Had I really made her into an inhuman idea?
She sits alone. I talk myself into talking to her. But what do I say? “Well,” I think. “Let’s ask her her name. A name is a good thing to know.”
“I always see you walking, but I’ve never known your name.”
“Rita. My name is Rita.”
“Well, My name is Blair. I’m glad to know your name.”
She sits with her left foot out of her sock. Her toenail is loose.
I ask her why she likes walking so much. She tells me that after her and her husband split she just kinda started. “No need to just sit by myself… I don’t like to just sit around.” So she walks.
I tell her that I used to see her on my street but haven’t seen her at all lately. I tell her where I live.
“There are too many people over that way that like to pick problems. I don’t like to think of my neighbors like that. So I thought I should just stay away for a bit.”
And I know who she speaks of. Not because I asked them their name, like I asked her, but because they are infamous characters. And not for beautiful reasons.
We end our chat. I’m exhilarated. Surprisingly exhilarated. I’m not sure I would have been more so if I had just chatted with Nicole Kidemon or some other Nashville personality. I had just met Rita!
Sitting down alone at my favorite half booth in the window I want more time with Rita. Texting my husband my mind goes a mile a minute. Should I invite her to Christmas dinner?
Walking shoes. I’m going to buy her walking shoes.
I turn to get up and go back to her and she is gone.
Is this some Christmas movie? You know the scene. The one where the angel mysteriously vanishes in a blink? (I seriously ask myself that in that moment).
I spy her slipping out the door and run after her.
I slide in for a side hug and ask her if I could buy her some walking shoes for Christmas.
“Oh no honey. Don’t you worry about me. You keep your money. You need it.”
She gives me excuses as to why she doesn’t need any. That she has some other shoes. (She was wearing open toe slide on clogs).
I try to talk her into it. I even lie and tell her I wear her size and ask can I just give her some of mine. She tells me not to worry.
We say goodbye and Merry Christmas. I tell her to be safe. She looks at me like that is a strange thing to say.
And now I’m wrestling in my heart with her words. “You keep your money. You need it.”
What does that mean? Why do I need it? Why doesn’t she need my money? I obviously judged her as needing it. Or maybe it was sarcasm – her saying I need it. Maybe she has some foresight and I’ll be in a situation that I really do desperately need it? Maybe she senses something in me – my sinful attachment to worldly desires.
Whatever she meant. She has rocked me. Like a “I want to withdraw all my money from the bank and run it all through a shredder” kind of rock me.
Clearly, that is not the answer. Duh. That would be dumb.
But I guess that is the difficult lesson. Finding the place between shredding and clinging to it with clinched fists and never having enough.
So now I’m sitting here typing out my brain. Processing. I still have a Sunday school lesson on money to write.
Oh God how you work!!! Before I even have my mac book open to read one verse or sermon on money and spending, you pick me up by the heel, shake me upside down until all the change falls out of my pockets and you say “You want to learn about money? Let me show you.”
It feels a bit like that 8th grade Latin class right now. The material has been presented. But I’m having trouble putting all the right pieces together and making sense of anything.
“You keep your money. You need it.”
And now I’m realizing.
If I had stood there in front of my own heart. That is what my heart would tell me.
“No, self. This is my money. I need it. Keep it for me. Me. Mine. Ours. Don’t share. You’ll be sorry later.”
So. Now What?