Sharing Joys and Burdens, Part 2: The Bicycle Deliveryman

Dan and Alaina paid us a visit recently. I love visits to our New York home. I love taking friends and family into the city and playing the part of the guide. On this particular night it was just chilly enough for a light coat, and Luke was at the wheel trying to find a parking spot. After the usual 30+ minutes, he and I had, impressively (to us), kept our cool AND found a spot we were 95% sure was legal (I think Dan and Alaina were impressed, too). Good start to the night.

We began the walk to one of our favorite dinner spots and we were feeling the good city vibes. The buzz of action was all around us and we took in the people and the sights. I felt like I was showing off the great city of New York, in which I wasn't born, but have been a frequent visitor this past year; in which I still feel like an outsider, but have become somewhat comfortable; in which I've gotten lost many times, but know my way around fairly well now, for a non-native.

We walked along with countless others, paying little attention to anyone until we approached a busy intersection along with two other girls who were acting a little odd, a little jittery. They were dressed in black, one taller and one shorter, the shorter wore spiky boots and cropped hair. The taller called out to her as she began to walk straight out into oncoming traffic, ignoring the don't walk sign. "No, wait! Don't do that!" but the shorter one was already in the street. We heard shouts and horns as she was struck by a bicycle deliveryman who then nearly fell into the path of a speeding yellow taxi. It was one of those things you never want to see, so you just wait, cringing, not knowing what will happen next. Somehow both individuals managed to stay on their feet and avoid contact with moving vehicles, but as she came stumbling back towards her friend on the curb, she was laughing. LAUGHING, while the deliveryman stood with his bike off to the side, traumatized, surely having just seen his life flash before his eyes. It was a terrifying series of events, but what followed was even more shocking.

I recently read a New York Times article about NYC food deliverymen on bicycles, just like this man was. Every day is dangerous for them. I read that many receive a base pay of about $30 a day, plus tips, but could be ticketed at any time for riding electric bikes which are banned in New York (but are by far the best means of working efficiently). I read that they work 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week, and that every night wealthy New Yorkers in fancy Park Avenue flats receive takeout deliveries from them and tip minimally. I recalled all these things as I watched what unfolded next.

At the intersection, the walk signal finally flashed and everyone began to cross, relieved it was over and all parties were okay. The girl who stepped out into oncoming traffic turned suddenly toward the deliveryman, who hadn't moved, and kicked his bike with her spiky black heel. She yelled obscenities at him and, in a final fit of rage, she threw her drink on him. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was all I could do to sputter "What are you doing?!" as she stormed away.

I looked at the man on the bike. I saw the liquid covering him and the bewildered look on his face. "That was not your fault," I said. A man behind me told him "We all saw it! She walked out right in front of you!" I was so angry. We kept walking and found ourselves just behind her and her friend for the next three blocks. She was laughing again, and I was imagining all the different ways I could potentially hurt her. Luke knew; he said "Margaret, she's messed up. She's on something." You could tell by the way they were walking. I heard the taller one say "That was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen in my life." All I could think about was the deliveryman and the drink soaking his coat. She had no reason to throw her drink on him. My heart was heavy with the scene: the man, the article, the drink, and this girl who was perhaps drunk or on drugs and had just come close to killing him. 

I couldn't stop thinking about the man on the bike for a long time. I replayed the events and pined over whether or not I should have said or done anything more. The opportunity has passed, but maybe I did all I could humanly do at the time: to share his burden. And maybe, just maybe those who are burdened need only for someone to come along and carry part of the weight.

 

more:

Beautiful blog post about bearing one another's burdens.

The Bible talks about sharing each other's burdens, too.

 

Sharing Joys and Burdens, Part 1: Song from Beijing

Yesterday should have been a relaxing Sunday, the kind meant for napping, but I was restless. Too often the effects of working from home catch up with me and I feel like I just need to GET OUT, so Luke and I went for a walk. We made our way down winding Lowland Road and over the expressway to downtown Nyack where we knew a fall festival had been taking place. The festival was over by the time we arrived, so we found an empty park bench overlooking the Hudson river and continued what had turned into a somewhat involved conversation about our future.

My body was turned toward Luke as we sat, and in the middle of our conversation I saw him look past me for a split second with confusion on his face. A very pregnant Asian woman had sat down next to me--I mean RIGHT next to me--on the park bench. I felt a little invaded, a little irked, and immediately I attributed her actions to her internationality. Luke and I tapered off our conversation and as much I wanted to get up and leave then, I looked at the woman and said "Hello." In all honesty, I didn't even know if she spoke English. But she said hi back and apologized if she had interrupted our conversation, she was just so tired. I noticed how beautiful she was. Cropped black hair that fell in short waves around her roundish Chinese face, bright white teeth, very stylish sunglasses and a camel poncho that tied just above her big belly. She was a real estate broker in Manhattan, but she had only moved from Beijing in 2009. I asked a few more questions about what brought her to Nyack that day until the conversation inevitably went to the pregnancy of her first child.

"When are you due?"

"November the 6th."

"Do you know what you're having?"

"A baby girl."

I'm not sure why, but at the mention of her baby girl, tears came to my eyes. I was filled with joy for this complete stranger. We continued our conversation for a little while until Luke asked if they had a name picked out. She smiled, hesitated, and then said "You will be the first ones I've told." We all started laughing at the craziness of it: Luke and I, having no connection to this woman whatsoever, knowing the name of this precious baby even before the grandparents?! We felt honored and promised not to tell anyone she knows.

We parted ways soon after that, but I was very touched by our meeting. I was ultimately glad she sat down on our park bench in a stroke of very un-New-York-like behavior. I was also glad I didn't get up like I wanted to and walk away without a word. It was a good reminder that in a society where anonymity and keeping to ourselves is the cultural norm, that's not what we we were made for. We were made to connect with one another, to share the joys and burdens even of strangers on a very personal level. Getting up from that park bench would have been to miss a great opportunity to live out what I am created for.

So for little Cleo Song who will be out in the world in less than a month, I pray God's grace and blessings. Her middle name is after her mama, who I was glad to know for a very short time on an early fall afternoon. 

 

I'll be back this week with part two about a burden shared with a New York City bicycle deliveryman.