My excuse for being late to work
I had driven past the apartment complex a thousand times over the past few years. Nothing really stood out to me except for the decay from years of neglect. Maybe in its glory it was a motel offering shelter to weary travelers making their way around Greenville on Highway 25. Now it was an apartment complex.
Apartment #1 is about 4 feet from the sidewalk. That’s all that separates it from a frantic six lanes of traffic. And that’s where she stands, watching, waiting.
Recently, I had noticed that on my commute, if I passed by close to 8:25 a.m., she would be on the sidewalk looking at oncoming traffic. Searching. Every morning. Then one day I saw what she saw. A yellow school bus, lights flashing to signal a stop. But by then, I was a block past her.
Perhaps purposefully over the next few days I slowed my commute to allow me to pass by slightly later until I found the perfect timing. When she would see the lights flashing she would step back the few feet to her front door and usher out two young children. She would gently guide them to the school bus door, blow kisses to the area where they sat, vigorously wave, and SMILE. Oh, she had a glorious smile! In those few seconds I felt like I was witnessing the most wonderful kind of maternal love being shared.
Occasionally I would get caught at a nearby traffic light, allowing me to see even more of their life. In warmer weather, she often watched two pre-school children ride tricycles through the dusty parking lot while waiting for the bus to pick up the older children. She did all this with a sense of motherly love.
Then one day a doctor’s appointment put me later than usual. The bus had already come, traffic was thinning, and she was in the gravel parking lot with the two younger children on their tricycles. I convinced myself the opportunity would never be so good. I crossed three lanes, dodged a Civic-sized pothole in the parking lot, parked, took a deep breath, and approached her. A middle-aged white man approaching a young black woman in a questionable part of town. I think I prayed not to get shot.
She listened as I told her how her beautiful smile to her children brought joy to my life and blessed me. I had recently converted some points on my company credit card into gift cards so I handed her one, which she accepted with squeals and that big smile. She initiated a hug and we exchanged first names. She called her mom to tell her what just happened. Then we went back to our lives.
It’s a new school year now. I still look for her but things have changed. Maybe the family moved. I pray for her once in a while. I hope I always remember that smile.