Random Woman #5 (Urban Public Park)

In the park, a young woman comes up to me and asks to use my cell phone "to call a friend to pick her up." She doesn't have money for the pay phone. A person without a cell phone is almost as rare as a public phone these days. Addicts, dealers, prostitutes or homeless people are the likely users of old- fashioned pay phones. This is my reflexive judgment. I tell her she can't use my cell, but I have some change.

She thanks me as I dump coins into her cupped palm. Then she walks to the phone mounted next to the door of the public facility.  Amazingly, it's actually functioning.  Just before I enter the library, I notice the big black purse slung over her shoulder has abrasions like animal claw marks all down its side.

When I emerge from the building, the woman is standing in the parking lot. She thanks me again. I pass near her, just as she's yanking her sweatshirt off. It's getting hot. Her T-shirt  rides up a bit as well,  revealing a brief flash of belly and hip curve.

Driving away I think about karma; specifically how each thought and action spawns a corresponding effect. I absurdly try to imagine what specific consequences the handout I gave her -- at that particular moment will have on her fate -- or mine for that matter.

Impossible to know. A young woman carrying a shabby purse. Then I think of  the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,  gazing with compassion on the suffering of the world; as I resume the ordinary tasks of my day.


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