For the last hour, I’ve been meandering around USC’s intricate campus trying to find the bookstore. I was in some strange back alley where I saw a woman crying her eyes out while leaning on a parking meter for support. I looked at her and asked if she was alright. She was crying so profusely that the information was jumbled. She kept repeating that people just look at her like she was dirt. I understood after half a minute that she ran out of gas with her daughter, pushed her car to a gas station, and was asking people for help on the USC campus. Apparently, people were just treating her like shit. She said she needed $8 to get some gas to get home. I know how easy it is to get in a situation like that, as my family has been in such situations before. Just because someone is in a bad situation and needs some help does not make them worse people.
I told her that I understood, and then gave her the $11 in my wallet. Her crying became more intense, but this time fueled by joy rather than sorrow. She hugged me and said “There are still good people in LA.” I told her it was her lucky day, because I am new to the city. She hugged me again and said I would be blessed.
I figured that she would get much more from that $11 than I would. I was glad to help, and I feel a little ashamed to be walking around in a campus apparently full of people who would treat someone like dirt. I can’t help but wonder whether it was because the woman is black. I tried not to dwell on the thought, since I like to think the people here aren’t that awful.
The thought occurred to me that she might be trying to scam the rich USC folks, but if she were a scammer, she is also the best actor I’ve ever seen in my life. I looked in her eyes and my heart sank. I’m glad I happened to be wandering around in such a disorganized manner, or else I would never have seen her.
On the walk to the other side of campus, I thought to myself that I want to live in a world where people in need aren’t looked down upon as dirt.