At least once a week I drive through the intersection of Larkin and Geary. A couple of years ago, an old woman appeared there, asking passing motorists for spare change. She was impossibly old, bent over, with a gnarled hand holding a cup for the change.
She became a regular, a fixture. There were some changes over the months: she got her white hair dyed brown, and I thought she must be doing well. She got a walker.
Sorry to confess that I never gave her money. I don’t give from my car because if the light changes, you hold up traffic, and it’s unsafe. Her appearance was disturbing; looking at her, I couldn’t help but think, am I going to end up like this, at the end of life, feeble and begging on a dirty corner? I would avert my eyes, fiddle with the radio, anything to avoid this unpleasant facet of reality.
On saturday, I saw this memorial, and knew instantly who it concerned. Turns out she lived in the single room occupancy hotel at that corner, courtesy of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. Now I regret not giving her a buck, and my shallow revulsion. The lesson is: generosity is a limited time offer, and sometimes requires overcoming silly squeamishness.
I’m sorry, Cathy, rest in peace.