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For a whole year I passed Jill sitting on the bench, at the entrance to the park. I was too engrossed in my own thoughts to notice much more. She sat there with her entire life in several bags next to her. But like so many other walkers and joggers I just pass by unperturbed by her station in life. After all, what can we do? Maybe it’s her fault — she doesn’t want to work or she is crazy.
The following year I went back and there she was. Still sitting on the park bench. I said hello. She smiled a huge gap-toothed grin and said hello back. I passed by but this time I thought about her. I wondered what her story was. Does she have a family? Why was she still on the park bench after a year? Did she spend the whole winter there?
The following week I said hello and stopped. Jill was sipping on coffee and was as pleasant as ever. It puzzled me that she wasn’t sad or had a sour disposition. After our brief chat, I found out that she had been on that bench for two years after being kicked out of a shelter. She had issues that required legal representation which she seemed to have but I still couldn’t help but feel pain.
I could not put her out of my mind after that. Every time I passed that way, I would bring some breakfast, juice, or coffee. I began to pray for her. We talked every Saturday when I went for my walk. I would even stop by on my way to church. I gave her may business card and a contact card for my church. I introduced her to my mother and two of my sons.
Jill was well groomed (despite the fact she lived on a park bench). Her hair was neatly combed, toe nails were painted…some mornings she was painting them while I was passing by. We became close enough where each greeting was met by a hug. I did not feel I had to hold my breath or make a mad dash for the shower after hugging her.
Unfortunately, I lost track of her just before Christmas 2012. I kept wanting to go to the park during the Christmas season but never made time for a visit. When I went back in the New Year she was gone. I pass by when I am going Downtown Brooklyn and look for her when I go for my walk but to no avail. Again I am left wondering…is she dead? Did she go home back to the South? I think the worst and I think the best. But not knowing…