Weird how some things happen.
Three weeks ago I bought a set of three black masks that came sealed in a package. The mask I've been wearing was made by one of my staff at Vita, and I really like it. I bought the new masks because the one I use all the time is slowly losing its elasticity. But. Even with the new masks all sealed up in my bag, I never switched over and they just waited in my bag.
I was waiting outside the liquor store in the mall and had been for some time. The pandemic apparently isn't hurting the liquor industry. There were two other people waiting outside the store with me. One was an older fellow who spent his time on the phone, the other was a homeless man who had mental health issues. We all stood equidistantly about 6 feet apart. The homeless man was holding his shirt up over his face. This caused his body to contort because he had to pull his head down to get the shirt up over his nose.
Finally, he slid to the floor, while holding his face covered. He pulled up his pant leg and there was a huge scabbed-over wound on the front of his right shin. It looked painful and there was relief on his face in getting the fabric off the unprotected wound. He and I waited in comfortable silence waiting. When Joe came out of the store, I turned to roll away from him.
Though we had not spoken.
That did not mean that we hadn't connected.
I had seen him.
He had seen me.
I turned my chair back and said to him, "Would you like a mask? I have a brand new one in my bag if you'd like it."
His eyes filled with tears, "I would love one," he said, "you are an angel."
Joe got the package out of my bag, I ripped it open, and then Joe took one and gave it over to him. He put it on, immediately, and dropped his shirt allowing him to sit upright.
"Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," I said.
And that was that. I wondered about the vague feeling of comradeship that I felt with him until this morning. At church, online of course, there was a reading from one of Harvey Milk's speeches and then the minister expounded on it. The topic had been Harvey Milk's belief that we all need to sit on the stoop together more. We all need to see and interact with our neighbours to stay real and to stay connected.
I think that was it.
We had each sat on the stoop, unspeaking, but sharing space and time.
In doing so, he became my neighbour.
And the expectation becomes the commandment, "Love thy neighbour."