A year ago, a friend of mine died.
We’d been colleagues for a long time. But, for much of that time, we were very wary of each other. I thought she was too sincere for deal-making and she thought I was a conniver. She looked at me just the slightest bit askance, like I was too much of a hustler for her taste. That’s when we were hard charging on the issue of homelessness in our town – she was the person helping horribly distressed folks standing in line at the meal program and I was analyzing data and writing grant proposals.
And then somehow we became friends.
We had lunches in a funky little French restaurant where we commiserated on how a common enemy had done us wrong. And, after a while, I convinced her to check out a new group I was working with. She came with me on outreach with Street Angels and it was like I’d put her in contact with long lost relatives – that’s how happy she was.
By then, she’d had a stroke so she was fragile on her feet, moving ever so slowly. Still, when the outreach bus stopped at the top of a bridge, she would ease herself out the door to talk to people. She could get a person’s trust in three minutes, that’s how completely selfless and genuine she was. And gentle. Probably the gentlest person I’ve ever known.
Anyway, this week, I’m meeting with other members of the Street Angels board to figure out who should get an award in my friend’s name. I asked people to rate the nominations in terms of how they exemplified my friend’s values of compassion, persistence, optimism, and resourcefulness. As if those things can be quantified.
I miss her. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen her. The last time, we stood next to each other on a city bridge and sang “You Are My Sunshine” at a memorial gathering for a homeless woman hit by a car. Then I went to get my truck and came back to pick her up – because walking far was so hard for her – and we drove home. When she got out of the car, she told me that I was a real friend to her and I’ve tried to live up to that ever since.
This is how we do what’s next.