The other evening, my wife and I went for a stroll around our urban neighborhood. At the corner we noticed a couple of wooden desk drawers propped up against the black iron fence in front of an apartment. Looking ahead down the street, we noticed a fellow shoving an enormous wooden desk along the sidewalk. As we approached we noticed the desk was on its back, and the fellow, who was leaning against the desk and puffing, was at least seventy years old.
“Hey, let us help you with that,” I said.
“Oh no!” he replied, plucking at his blue Hawaiian shirt. “I’m hot already. No need you to get hot.” I believe he was Chinese, maybe Korean; his English was fine but his accent strong.
“Nonsense,” I replied. “We’re glad to help. Where are you going with this?” We noticed the rest of the drawers were waiting on the next corner ahead. “This way? Here, let’s push.”
We shoved the desk all the way down the block, pausing only to permit the Russian ladies pushing strollers to pass us in the opposite direction. At the corner of Sheridan Road, the old guy pressed his hands together and exclaimed, “You are a gentleman! You are an American!!”
“Well, you’re an American too!” I told him. I went back for the drawers.
As I ran back down the block, I encountered a large family, at least fifteen persons, assembling on the sidewalk in front of the aforementioned fence. I believe they were Hispanic, three or four generations, ranging in shade from lily white to walnut brown. Dad handed me his phone and asked me to shoot the family portrait, which I did. I fetched the drawers, passed back through the family, returned to my party at the traffic light and discovered two of the family had joined the group. The five of us easily got the desk and drawers across Sheridan and down the block to the fellow’s apartment building. We left it to the doorman to finish the job.
“I hate to think what the back of that desk looks like,” my wife remarked.
On the way home, we passed the spot where a member of our church was shot and killed a few days ago; the intended target was the guy standing next to her. There’s a lot going on in my neighborhood. I wondered what the old Chinese guy saw that prompted him to call me an American. I wondered who in this story would be welcome in Donald’s World. The old Chinese guy? The big Hispanic family? Do I get to stay, what with being white and all? What happens when you find out I’m the son of an immigrant and a Jew?
Seems to me the gang kids and other fear mongers want to drive us apart, to live in isolation and fear, but I think we are stronger together. It certainly made moving the desk easier.