A Tenderloin Farewell

Turns out her name was Cathy.

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.

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2 thoughts on “A Tenderloin Farewell

  1. I’m happy that you have to the courage to face that awakening. Anybody who lives in a city should be able to distinguish genuine need from lazy greed.

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