Thursday, June 6, 2013
The Woman on the Bridge
Bruce and I return home from shopping. As we are about to turn onto our road, I spot an older woman walking along Old York road. She catches my eye: not a hitchhiker or a hiker, since she carries nothing with her, no purse, no belongings, more like a lost soul.
After I have spent some time weeding, it's time to take the dogs for their walk, and down the road, on the neighbor's bridge, I spot her again, her legs dangling over the edge of the bridge. She does not seem to hear my hello, too busy talking to her fingers which move in the air. Strangely, the dogs do not heed her.
On my way back I pass her again. This time, lying on her side on the bridge. Only the homeless know how to make themselves comfortable on hard surfaces.
I return to weeding, but the image of the woman keeps taping my mind, the questions of where did she come from, where is she going....It takes me about an hour to realize that on this hot day, she has no water to drink, or anything to eat. Suddenly (or finally), I am assaulted by the thought I should "do something". This strikes me out of the blue, somewhat uncomfortably, but the thought keeps puncturing my mind until I finally go to the house, get water and provisions, and jump into the car to get there faster. I feel both eager and anxious.
The bridge is deserted. I drive on down the road just in case I might see her, but there's no one but the cows in the pasture. As I drive home, a feeling of regret, but also shame, passes through me.
As I return to weeding, I ponder why did it take me so long to realize her needs, to feel that I should help? and the first answer that comes to me is that my parents did not model this: we have no responsibility for strangers, was the unspoken message. Why would I be more inclined to feed a stray dog than a stray human being? But as I consider that, I realizy my parents did not teach me that either; friends did.
When I lived in the countryside of SC, one evening a stinky, skinny, scared dog appeared on my doorstep. Don't you have some bread and milk? my friends asked. I complied, and that is how I adopted my first dog, Amie.
I also admit to myself that I was a bit leery of this strange woman. I could feel myself tense up watching her enact her inner world, and yet, how would she have been a danger to me?
I will await the next stranger on the bridge.
Guest blogger Petra Wirth is a long time yoga practitioner and instructor, and directs Yoga From The Heart Studio in Carlisle, Pa.