“Are you leaving?” she asks from the sidewalk as I stood beside the door of my car.
“Sorry, just arriving,” I say. I presumed the middle- aged woman in blue jeans and a black t-shirt was hoping for a parking spot in my gentrifying neighborhood.
She turns to keep walking. “If you was leaving I was going to ask you for a ride.”
“I can give you a ride. I just need to make room.”
“Can I help?”
She carries my newly purchased flat of red and white petunias inside before hopping into the only passenger seat of my tiny car.
“Where are you headed?”
“East Omaha.” I wonder if we’re headed to the Open Door Mission.
“I don’t have any gas money,” she explains. “A friend offered to give me a ride but I didn’t have no gas money.”
“I’m Bobbie Jo.” She holds out her hand for me to shake and I realize she has no mask.
”I’m vaccinated,” I say, “If you’re worried about COVID.”
“I’m not worried,” she says. I don’t leave my house much.”
I warn her to be careful but stop short of giving a lecture on the CDC Guidelines.
“Oooh I’m sweating,” she says, waiving her hand in front of her face. I press the button to roll down her window and let in the cool spring air.
She’d already walked to the Dollar Store that day when her friend who’d been called into work needed a babysitter. Bobbie Jo would get there as soon as she could.
It was four and a half miles from where I’d picked her up.
“I like to help people out. Plus, she pays me good…I came to Omaha for a man. We were together for six years. But then I found out he was cheating on me…I’ve never been so broke. Even a dollar would help.” I look straight ahead.
“I have no doubt that anyone who is as determined and helpful as you is going to be okay,” I say.
“Why thank you.”
We drive through a stretch of the inner city where cheery new housing was sprinkled between buildings either industrial or abandoned.
“Where does your friend work?” I ask. She pauses.
“At some factory, I think. She’s always greasy when she gets home. Turn here.”
I pull onto a vacant lot.
“Have a blessed evening,” she says as she gets out. She walks toward a lot enclosed by a crude fence of tall boards. She enters through the opening where a gate might have been. She heads toward a run- down trailer with towels for curtains.
“There aren’t enough good people in the world,” she told me on our dusk hour drive. There was one. And I’d just met her.
How do you decide when to go outside of your comfort zone?
Have you missed making new friends this past year?
How often do you make assumptions about people?