"Reflections on a Conversation with 'Angie'"
[Note: to avoid a number of emails, yes, Angie exists, and yes the story
that follows actually happened as described. Any further feedback is
welcomed at the email at the bottom of the article. -- Minupla]
First allow me to note that the excerpts from my conversation are used with
her express permission. They were personal thoughts and I would not have
dreamed of reprinting them without that permission.
I was travelling home from the movies tonight, and waiting for the bus at
Georgia and Granville, when I was approached by a young lady, asking for some
spare change. Before I could respond with my now practiced evasions, (it is
strange how it's one of the first things you learn when you live in the big
city), she offers to read me some of her poetry. This is new, and I've got
time to burn before the bus arrives. I accept her offer, not supplying the
change. She proceeds to recite from memory for 4 minutes poetry much better
than I, with my college education ever could have written.
I hand her what money I have on me, and bid that she take a seat and talk with
me for awhile until my bus shows up. She's obviously not your stereotypical
street person, and I want to hear her story, and felt that I'd just paid much
more to hear some producer's made up story, I could certainly spare a few
dollars to hear her real one.
Except for a shift in economic status, it could have been my story. She
started lower so when her family crashed, she ended lower, and didn't have my
aptitudes to fall back on. She told me stories of protecting her little
sister from her dad, and how eventually they left him, opting to live on the
streets rather then continue to accept the abuse. She told me of a boyfriend
who wanted her to push dust, and her refusal to inflict that on other innocent
people. She also told me of the punishment she received for this refusal.
Part way through the stories, I stopped listening so closely and listened to
the tone of her voice, and watched her bearing. This was a young lady (of all
of 18 years old!) who had the confidence, and self-assurance of any
professional I've ever dealt with. I questioned her about this. She
responded "There comes a time when you have to make a decision, you undergo
abuse from your parents, and you have to decide, you can either be like them
or you can learn from them. I thank my father for giving me the example not
Eventually, as many conversations like this in my life have gone of late, the
subject of religion came up. I myself am a confirmed fence sitter. I'm
agnostic. After having recited a common saying, it occurred to me to inquire
as to her belief system. She said, "People need something to keep them going.
It can be anything. If believing in a God does it for them, more power to
them, it could be a doorknob they believe in, and that would be fine too." So
I asked, "And what keeps you going Angie?". Her response was, "I want to see
where this train stops. That and taking care of my little sister." At about
this point, my bus pulled up, and Angie pointed it out. I quickly scribbled
my email addy "firstname.lastname@example.org" on a scrap of paper and handed to her, noting
that if she was ever in a position to access the net, to please drop me a
line, and stepped out of her world.
Never once during my conversation with her did she express more then a quick
thanks, and never did she indicate that more money would be appreciated, this
would have been beneath her dignity, she had what she needed, and in return
she gave freely of what I requested, conversation.
So, as I sit on the bus on my way home trying desperately to type this into
the laptop while it's still fresh in my mind. I ask myself, "What has this
changed about me? What does Angie have to teach me?"
I think we take people for granted. Here's a lady that if you read her
story in a fictional tale you'd go, "Ya, OK, but who can believe the
character?" These people exist in real life. And you find them where you
least expect to find them. When I logged out of #UF tonight and decided
almost randomly to see 13th floor (good movie, btw, and well worth seeing), I
never expected to meet a role model, and certainly never expected for her to
be a street person. But in this day and age, I'll take my heroes where I can
Thanks, Angie, and I hope my 10$ bought you a warm place to spend the night,
it was more then worth it, and I hope one day you will be in a position to
tell your own story, as I'm sure you could do so with much more eloquence then
(c)1999 You are hereby given permission to reproduce this document, so long as
the reproduction is done in full and unaltered form, and no money is collected
for the work.