Kayla Roth, entry #8, finds the core of the Big Apple

Next Stop: Greenwich Village

“People who can share money can share love.” (Jerry Rubin)

Literati

Kayla Roth is a sometime-visitor to our site; not here often enough. She observes the world through a writer’s eyes, wondering what the novels are behind the faces of the people she encounters. Greenwich Village, where once upon a time, never having thrown the bums a dime in his prime Bob Dylan wandered in and out of places like The Bitter End and Folk City. Kayla saw it as a tourist, and saw what is always there to see, but not observed often enough: an act of kindness.

We have just one more entry to post after this, and our deadline is today at midnight PST. We will take a week to absorb your comments, and announce a winner by October 15th, along with a new contest prompt.

Here is her take on contest  “One-of-a-Kindness.”

 

Kindness in the City

By Kayla Roth

In April 2016, I traveled to New York City for the first time. Home was a quiet beach town in California, but I had been coaxed to the East Coast by an invitation to stay with a friend in the West Village. I was single, in my late 20’s, and didn’t mind sleeping on an uncomfortable cot surrounded by piles of books, so I jumped at the new opportunity for adventure.

Although I experienced many wonderful moments during my trip, one moment in particular will forever stay with me:

A few days after landing in New York, I found myself wandering the sidewalks of the Upper West Side. It was around 2:30pm, and my friend Carol and I were looking for a place to eat a late lunch.

We had spent the morning exploring the Village, which had risen to the occasion with dance and song to celebrate the life of pop icon Prince. He had passed away just a day or two before, but the neighborhood continued to sing an unending chorus of “Purple Rain” in his honor. I still felt his memory a short subway ride away as glancing up at the skyscrapers above me I saw a digital billboard plastered with his iconic symbol of love and the dates 1958 to 2016.

“Where do you want to eat?” I asked Carol.

“Let’s just keep walking until we find a place,” she said. “Maybe a table outside so we can people watch?”

“Sounds good to me,” I said, looking forward to a break from the hustling crowd.

I had quickly learned that everyone in New York was in a constant hurry. Even if I was just taking a stroll, I felt rushed to keep up with the people around me. It made me wonder if anyone actually took a moment to relax.

Although I kept at the pace of the masses, I was still a tourist. I took every opportunity to observe my surroundings, even if it was just for a second or two.

That’s when I noticed him: an older man, his dark skin a vivid contrast with the short, white hair on his head. He sat on a plastic chair on the broken sidewalk across from the Lincoln Center. His clothes were faded, and his face seemed tired. Next to him was a worn out backpack and a small container of coins and a few dollar bills. It was obvious that he was one of the many homeless men I had seen in the city, and sadly he would not be the last. But what made me really notice him was that he was writing. Word by word, this man wrote with purpose in a notebook he held in his lap.

What could he be writing? I wondered. What experiences and struggles could he share? What could the world learn? Is it a memoir? Poetry? Or maybe just a letter or a long list. I was inspired by this man and I wanted to help. I reached my hand into my purse before I remembered I didn’t have any cash on me. My heart dropped and I reluctantly continued on my way with the crowd, silently wishing the writer good luck.

I had barely traveled an inch forward when I observed another man. He was small and thin, and wore a large green visor over his face. He made his steps slowly, one at a time, and was guided by a woman I assumed to be his wife. As they walked together against the horde, I saw that the man held his wallet in his hand and slowly, shaking, pulled out some money. His eyes were locked on the writer, and that’s when I knew his intention.

I immediately felt overwhelmed with joy to witness such compassion. Here was a man who struggled to walk and was fighting against the crowd – a crowd too focused on their destination to really pay attention to the world around them – so that he could share what he had with someone in need.

It’s doubtful that either man knew their actions would have such an impact on my life. I am thankful I was able to observe such generosity. It gave me hope – especially in this age of uncertainty – that there are still people in the world with love in their hearts. Even in New York, a city with such a rough reputation, one can still find acts of kindness.

 

4 comments

  1. Stefanie Allison

    Elie Wiesel (may his memory be a blessing) once said he passed by a homeless man asking for money, and when he emptied his pockets to show the man he legitimately had no money to spare, the man raised his hand and nodded. Even if Wiesel couldn’t give him something physical, he was able to give the man his honesty. And that’s what you’ve given us here. And maybe Prince leaving us made us a little kinder for a few days. Thank you Kayla for your entry and–most importantly–for being my friend.

  2. Avatar
    Miryam says:

    Great story Kayla. Well written. You set up your story with an interesting intro… moved into a very strong transparent dialog with yourself, and wrapped up the scene with a reflective ending… Very nice job within this small word count allowance. You appear to possess a gift… keep it up! Hope to read more of your work.

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