I work very hard and am attending college to obtain my degree in the Human Service field. Writing makes me feel alive and gives me the opportunity to touch those whom I would not be able to otherwise. Last but not least, I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me completely and support my dreams. Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or feedback.
This past weekend, I went to dinner and my friend and I decided to go for a walk. It was Friday night and the weather was slightly chilly. I had not truly dressed for the occasion, but fortunately had remembered a light jacket in the trunk of my car. As we walked along the river, we noticed a flurry of activity. I love the east side, especially along the lakefront. Walking is what I do, usually around the pond and also the four sets of stairs from the pond area up to Prospect. It literally takes your breath away, and no, I am not only talking the scenery. After 25 sets, a total of 100 flights of stairs, you are literally drained and exhilirated all at the same time. Occasionally, I will sit and do your average people watch session, but normally it is in and out for me. No matter what, I always feel safe.
Getting back to last Friday. My friend and I are casually strolling along the river. It is quite a stretch, but I love to walk. We reach a point that I have heard of so often. Yep, you got it, I see "The Fonz". How cool is that? The statue sits on the river, with a plaque very close to it. Within 15 feet of the sculpture sits a woman, on a chair of some sorts. She is wearing a smock with the words "Miss Katie" across the front. She is around 5 feet tall and has a cute roundish face. She reminds me of my grandmother, yet younger. She is comfortable, yet I wonder. Who is this woman? And, why is she here? Does she need help, does she have a home? So many questions run through my mind. She offers to take a picture of my friend and I next to The Fonz. "No thanks", we respond. I am slightly hesitant to hand my electronic devices to strangers. Although she seems safe, the inevitable always pops into my mind. The traveling adventurer, the seemingly harmless "photographer". One hands over the camera, and the next thing you know, the photog is running as fast as he or she can with their new possession. Quite a few things ran through my mind. Yet, a journey of an adventure began. Miss Katie begins to describe The Fonz, head to toe. She mentions in his right thumb-print there are initials, representing Henry Winkler and his wife. Also, along the hand are initials of I believe the creator and his wife as well along with a heart. Miss Katie pulled me in. She began to describe her family history. At one point I glanced down and noticed a smock. Inside she carried paints. I questioned her motive for being in this particular place. She stated that she paints faces and arms. I request that she paint my arm and she happily obliges.
Miss Katie wove a tale of her life. Have you ever had an experience where you felt as if you were living a dream? That you were walking in someone else's shoes? It was as if I had known her for longer than moments before. Miss Katie described her life during the Vietnam War. How unfortunately so many men had perished and not one woman in her family had ever married or had children. (Lord please help me if I am not quoting word for word, let me do Miss Katie proud.) She had become a foster parent and had been a "mother" to numerous children during her lifetime. This woman was so full of life, peace and hope. She spoke of her grandparents, history, her education, and continuing education as well.
As Miss Katie paints my arm, she holds my hand. It feels warm, comforting and natural. I am in awe of this incredible stranger. She creates a masterpiece on my arm. A large red flower, vines, colors (created uniquely for me) and glitter. Blue, red, white and green glitter. I felt like a superstar. Oh how I wished it could have been permanent. We talk and share. I feel something very special about Miss Katie. I am touched, literally, inside and out by this amazing woman.
We exchange emails and embrace. I tell her I appreciate her and that it was an honor to be able to spend time with her. I tell Miss Katie I will share her story. She is a humble woman, and is grateful. Through her art, she receives tips, which she truly deserves. I inform her that I will let the people in the Milwaukee and surrounding areas know where she "resides" so that others may enjoy her artwork and knowledge. She sits by The Fonz before and after school during the week, and usually all day on Saturday and Sunday.
A couple of other women come to mind as well. These two cleverly disguized women have also touched me, in so many ways. Have you ever been to PickNSave on 76th and Coldspring? It is my normal place of business usually once a week. Eight years ago my journey began. I stood in line. There, at the register, was the most unusual woman. She was colored from head to toe. I was curious. Her head was adorned with bows, pony-tails, ribbons, etc. I was drawn to her. Initially there was not much of an exchange, your usual conversation. She was friendly, kind and had the same name as the one I used during my school years. Yet, over the years we have become aquainted. Believe it or not, although the rainbow of colors has washed from her hair, she too is an amazing woman. Everyone knows her. My girls love her. Even if there are 10 people in her line, we wait. It is worth it.
The last woman on my list is another woman in disguise. This woman and I also met approximately eight years ago. She is my butcher, or better yet, my favorite "shrimp on sale" girl. We chat, exchange and smile at one another. We talk about life, children, her grandson and also work. She has been at PickNSave for a number of years. On my last visit, I was slightly unnerved and she calmed me. She listened, I mean really listened. With her peaceful nature, she has a gentle touch and kind words. I have come to believe, and maybe this is selfish of me, that she was put behind the counter, just for me.
In looking at the above women, they all have one thing in common. They are amazing. Yet they are the type of women that the busiest of people would probably never notice. In today's society, we are taught to appreciate the most expensive, to work and keep up with the Joneses. Magazines feature women who are "flawless" so to speak. The women above are "real" women. They work and work hard. I have always seen these women in their uniforms. I can imagine walking in their shoes. Serving others for at least 8 hours a day with very little thanks. I mean, all I want is a pound of shrimp, right? Why would I have to say more than maybe "thanks" to the girl who is just doing her job.
I can honestly say these women are my heroes. Why, you may ask? Well, let me tell you. Not once during my exchange with any of these girls have they ever put on a fascade. Underneath the uniforms are women who truly care. They have always held a smile just for me. I notice their exchanges with other customers. I wonder if these customers see what I see. Do they realize if given the chance, you could have just a little of what I have been blessed with for so many years. It is a rarity you come across these types of women. Ones who just are. Are splendid, intelligent, fun, caring, loving, positive and kind.
I wonder if anyone else has a hero, an every day hero? And no, I am not talking about Brad, Angelina or any other celebrity you will never meet. Have you had the same type of experience with someone down the block? How about your elderly neighbor? How about the next time you visit a "regular" place, you talk with someone who works there. Do you have a favorite place you exercise? Ever notice the front desk person? Or, better yet, when you go to work, why not say hi to your cleaning lady? I mean, I do believe each one of us can mention a hero in our own family, but this takes a little more effort. As each of us goes through life so hurriedly, we are really missing out on folks who are put in our path for a reason. Why not take a couple of minutes out of each day to get to know someone new? I truly believe our lives are enriched when we surround ourselves with others who love and care for us. Because I chose to take a chance and say more than "hi and goodbye", my life is so much more rich, and I am not talking money. I am talking about something which will truly last a lifetime.