Beauty That Stopped Traffic
I've met and been blessed to know so many authentic, tender-hearted people. People of all backgrounds, age, race, income and beauty. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is true. The secret is to take off your media/ego/visual/assumptive lens and feel it in your bones. Nothing like it. I am blessed to share this story of the woman, so beautiful, she literally stopped traffic.
Ericka (false name) is 92 years old. She glows when she smiles. She is healthy. She walks everyday. She drives. She has better vision than most at age 40. She laughs easily. Ask her something and she has an answer. She's so busy living, she doesn't have time to dwell on the past. I met her where I meet most my inspirational people...the office I manage. (Yoga and writing is not my greatest source of revenue...yet)
Anyway, when we met, I immediately felt close to her. She reminded me of my late grandmother...who I shared a close bond. I love asking seasoned people about experiences that made a positive impact in their lives. Ericka, so far, has delivered the best one.
She was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She and her family are African-American. It is in the 1920's. Like mixing oil and vinegar. You can shake it hard; but, it will separate pretty quickly. Black and White didn't blend well. Historically engraved prejudice. Especially in the South. We may have created sweet tea; but, sugar came at a bitter price.
Her family left Birmingham to make a home in Nashville, Tennessee. Ericka went to college and got a degree in education. Diploma in hand, eager to teach, she couldn't get a job in the South...because of her race. So, she moved North...straight up to the Big Apple. New York, New York. She was determined to make it there. She got a job teaching at a university and started her journey into adulthood...with a past laced with racism. She had nothing to lose and everything she dreamed of to gain. Very "nothing ventured, nothing gained" thinker.
She walked to work each day. 42nd Avenue is where a sliver of history was made.
Back in the 40's, policemen actively directed traffic. Whistles blown to stop cars or get them moving. Hand signals to activate motion or stillness...drivers and walkers alike. One warm, sunny day, Ericka was taking her usual walk to work. Oblivious to the constant movement around her, she strode with purpose and determination.
Suddenly, her ears are pierced by the nearby policeman's long blow on his whistle. Traffic flow is stopped in all four directions by the man in uniform. The stillness of traffic catches her awareness. Then, a short tweet from his whistle prompts her to look at the source of sound. The policeman and her make eye contact and he motions her to approach him.
She's nervous. He's white. He's a policeman. She doesn't want to disobey the law...so, she timidly walks up to face him. As she comes near, he smiles a warm smile. A sense of reserved relief hovers within her. Traffic is honking...ready to get moving. People obeyed the law and actually waited. She meets him eye to eye. "Yes, officer...?" she humbly inquires.
"I just wanted to let you know. I see you walk to work everyday...and wanted to tell you something. You're so beautiful...you stop traffic."
She gasped in astonishment and before she could say anything, he said, "I just thought you should know." He motioned her to cross the street while he retained traffic, tipped his cap to her with a smile, told her, "have a great day" and blew his whistle to resume traffic's flow of movement.
Ericka stood on the opposite corner of the road she crossed in amazement. She stopped traffic in the heart of NY, NY because someone she didn't know, saw her beauty. By fate, she and the same policeman never met again; but, he made his mark. Of all the compliments she received her entire life thus far, this one has made the biggest impact.
A stranger. An anticipated threat or potential nemesis. A past vision endorsing future assumptions. A rush of "fight or flight" hormones getting the body ready to do what it needs to do...released like a balloon full of helium into the sky. Hope restored in the collective human race. A sense of division suspended while experiencing unity. Inspiration to keep moving forward given extra breath.
Seventy years later, she shared that story with me. Now, I share it with you. We have no time to waste. Moments of merit are worth our now. Slivers of history are what each of us create with thoughts, words, and actions. It is not what is in the books that count. It is what is in the heart. Everything the media preaches is not the truth. Detail distortion or deletion has been going on since the first paper got printed to read.
I bet there is no one else who can claim they stopped traffic in New York, New York; but, I know for certain there is beauty everywhere. We simply need to open our eyes, ears and hearts. It's not to be feared. What to fear is not being willing to become the beholder of beauty with your own eyes. It's the nourishment your soul seeks.
Thank you, Ericka, for sharing your story with me. It actually stopped my thoughts and gave me space to embrace the energy of love. Truly, a priceless gift. You keep stopping traffic in more ways than one...