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Dirty Stories: Two
April 12th, 2007

Spreading Blessings 

I was sitting at a bus stop in Nashville on a cold November night feeling like I was about to freeze to death. I was lonely. I was depressed. I was angry. I had lost my job due to Hurricane Katrina and had to live in Nashville in order to pay the bills. My family was in New Orleans and I had no car. I had never depended on a bus for my transportation so it took me a while to figure out how they worked. This meant I spent a great deal of time in the cold, waiting for a ride. I also wasn’t really used to the cold either! 

I noticed a man, who turned out to be in his early forties but looked much older, walking briskly up the hill to the bus stop. He was obviously a painter, dressed in a white shirt and white pants. He started talking to me 20 feet before he got to the bench where I sat. His name was Tom. 

“Man, it’s freezing out here! How much longer we got to wait?” asked Tom.

I smiled and said, “I have no idea.”

“How long you been here?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“That don’t help does it?” The buses in Nashville run every thirty minutes or sometimes only every hour.

“Nope. I’m not used to this cold. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I might go over to Fridays and call a cab. I’m dying here.”

“Where you from?”

“New Orleans.”

“Shit. I was raised down there. From Cameron. Do you know where that is?”

“No, is it toward Lake Charles?”

“Yeah, it’s really small. My grandfather raised me. Damn we was poor. He was a dirt farmer.”

Dirt farmer? Why would anyone farm dirt? I didn’t feel a joke was appropriate. Just then, a small car stopped across the street and a woman stepped out and crossed the street to where we sat. We moved over for Annie so she could share our bench. 

“Evenin’” “Evenin’ mam.”

“Like I was sayin’ we had to eat greens and tomatoes and corn. Whatever we could grow. We didn’t eat a lot of meat. But you know. I could use some greens and hot cornbread right now.”

“Yes, Jesus.” Annie smiled.

“I wish I was rich though. I never had nothing. We were happy though, but if I was rich, I’d never ride another bus. Folks like us have it hard.”

If he only knew. I wasn’t like him at all. I had never ridden a bus before I was forced to move to Nashville. I have a PhD. In theology. My parents had a lake home. We weren’t anything alike. Except that we sat there in the cold waiting on a bus together. 

Annie spoke up, “Oh no darling. You don’t want to be rich. The rich, they got lots of problems. They forget what life is all about. Spreading blessings. That’s what we’re supposed to be doin’. Most times, but not all…rich folks forget that.” The conviction in her words shook me. Since Katrina, I had spent most of my time away from New Orleans. I felt that I had abandoned my family, friends, and neighbors. 

Tom’s gregariousness seemed to melt as he dipped his head. He was visibly shaken. “But I ain’t never had nothin’. I’ve never been able to give anything to anybody.” 

“Oh sure you have, baby.” Annie’s confidence was reassuring to both of us. “I know you’re a good person. You’ve spread your blessings without even knowing it.” 

Tom didn’t move. I became very uncomfortable. In the brief time I had known Tom, he hadn’t stopped talking. After what seemed like an eternity, Annie said again, “Sure you have baby.” 

After another awkward silence, Tom slowly raised his head. “Well, there’s this older man at the assisted living facility where I paint sometimes that I give cigarettes. Nobody ever comes to see him so I give him cigarettes when I go there. He really appreciates it.” 

Before I could try to work through the ethical ramifications of Tom’s statement, Annie smiled and said, “There you go. You are spreading your blessings. I knew you did!” 

Tom smiled. “I guess it is. I never thought it was a big deal, but he ain’t got nobody to give him cigarettes.” 

When the bus came, Tom, Annie, and I sat in different places. I thought that was kind of strange and wanted our conversation to continue. I wanted Annie to remind me of the real meaning of life and perhaps share more of her thoughts about God. She got off the bus several blocks into our trip. After she stepped off, a young man boarded and sat next to Tom. He noticed the bulge in Tom’s breast pocket and asked if he could “bum” a cigarette. Tom said sure. He looked at me and we shared a smile.

 

Read the Comments

[ # 36358 ] Pingback from Howie Luvzus » Second Dirty Story about God. [April 12, 2007, 5:34 pm]

[…] Dirty Stories: Two […]

[ # 36359 ] Comment from Michael Westmoreland-White [April 18, 2007, 1:06 pm]

These stories are quite powerful. I look forward to the whole series.

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