Dear Reader:

The 30ish man ahead of me at the Jewel service counter looked up

and smiled. A young woman approached. The two had obviously not seen each other for some time.

“So whacha been doing?” he asked.

“I got a new job.”

An awkward silence followed while the man apparently attempted to sort out this information.

“But I thought you just left your job!”

“I did. I got a new one.”

“Why you wanna do that for?

You got unemployment. That’s your money. You can live on that for a year!”

His look of incomprehension followed her all the way to the back of the line.

–S.A. King

Dear Reader:

I was stopped at the Damen Avenue light while driving home from work on Fullerton. A black woman approached my car through the heavy rain that was falling. She was crying terribly and I slid my power window down just enough to hear her beg me for help. Her car, she said, had run out of gas and she had no money to buy more. She was from Elgin and knew no one in the city. I saw her dilapidated car blocking half the right lane so I believed her. The light changed and I started to pull away. Please, she pleaded as I closed the window, I’ll sell you my radio, anything. I left her there standing in the rain. So did everyone else in that line of cars.

When I got home I couldn’t believe what I had done. After half an hour of guilt I returned to my car and drove back to the intersection. The woman was just starting to drive away. She had found help–from a black man, I noticed.

I sat there for a moment as the rain slowed to a trickle, wondering how many hundreds of cars had driven by and ignored that woman’s cries for help. I was glad she had found assistance before I returned, that I hadn’t been given a chance to atone for my lack of compassion. I didn’t deserve one.

–Aaron M. Renn