This morning on my way to work a frantic looking elderly black woman ran up to my car while I was stopped at an intersection, waiting to turn left onto a busy street. She begged me to give her a ride down to Portland, (a mile or so out-of-my-way to the right). I thought about it for a second and then unlocked my door. Her car had broke down, and she felt fortunate that it’d happened on a day she didn’t have to work. (Today is Martin Luther King day–one of my namesakes.) Unfortunately, I did have to work today, and I was already late before giving this woman a ride. So I pulled into the lot where I work an hour late, but feeling smug in my moral superiority.
update: reading this later, I realize how stuck up this sounds. Smug is perhaps the wrong word, and that whole last sentence undermines the feeling that I was left with by this woman. What she said was not particularly enlightening, but her situation, her charisma, fearlessness were all somehow vibrantly illuminated for me that morning, and it made me feel somehow more alive in the same way that “stepping back” and thinking about the entire world all at once also makes me feel more alive. I did feel morally in-the-right, having placed this other person’s struggle above my own, if only for a few minutes. But superior was not necessarily the right word or feeling either.