Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Question (05/24/12)
TITLE: The Divide
By Kimberly Miller
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Twice a week I would pay my dollar fifty share and hop on a bus to the heart of downtown. I'd jostle my way through the crammed vehicle and attempt to find a seat next to a window. By habit I kept my gaze down to avoid the many judgments that were felt about me, and in turn starred out the window at the wreckage that had become simple normality.
Like a movie I watched the city unfold in scenes before me. I wondered why I was the only white face on the bus and why only this part of the city lied in ruins. Glass littered the sidewalks and rundown buildings were boarded up, prostitutes roamed freely and faces a shade darker were common place. But if you passed Troost Avenue you'd see riches and mansions, lawns perfectly mowed and women out walking their dogs. It was the invisible dividing line between those with advantage and those without, and it was just two blocks away.
When my stop finally arrived I would exit the bus and head down 12th avenue to the food kitchen I frequented regularly. As I strolled up either Jack or Wally would wave me over to join them in line. The line was long and filled with mostly men who were convicted felons. I myself didn't exactly fit in, as I was the youngest there and a female, but I ate lunch with them as though we were one and the same anyways.
My friend Jack had seven sons and had been a meth addict and dealer. One day he saw me shivering in line and offered to give me a sweater he had just received from another shelter. Something in my heart broke to receive such a gift from a man who had no clothes himself. From then on he took me under his wing and watched out for me whenever I came to the kitchen.
Soon after that I met Wally. He was quite a sight. He had devils horns tattooed on his bald head and feigned a gruff demeanor to keep people at a distance. I however pursued him with kindness and am afraid to say that this rough man eventually broke and received my friendship.
Us three became a trio. We would stroll the streets and talk about life and Jesus. We would play poker for pennies at the library and go get coffee at different shelters. Everyone thought I was one of their daughters and no one dared mess with me. They both wrestled with a lot of shame over past mistakes and neither had seen their families for years. But these men were my friends.
Something however nagged on me whenever I went to the food kitchen. You see, it was run by Christians, and each week a new church group came to serve the meal. I wondered though why no one ever spoke to us; why they avoided our eyes and rarely returned our smiles. I didn't understand why no one ever came to sit and have a meal with us, or even to share the good news about Jesus. They stayed on their side of the line and we stayed on ours, just like the whites and blacks did up by Troost Avenue.
Today I go home to a husband and two boys. Their skin happens to resemble a Starbucks mocha, and I guess I'm the whipped cream on top-or maybe just the milk hidden inside. We're used to people trying not to stare at us whenever we go out, but a little weary of the judgments we face at times. It seems I've yet to figure out what side of the line I'm on and still trying to understand- why the divide?
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