Almost exactly one month ago, I took my first walk through my neighborhood on what had been the warmest Sunday afternoon of the year, up to that point. One of my happiest and best discoveries of last year was how much I enjoy simply taking a walk in the afternoon or early evening around Edgewater in Chicago’s north side.
I realize I have written about this before (here and here), but my stroll at the beginning of this past May was especially significant in that it was my first since the current COVID-19 pandemic had been recognized domestically. I did a little reading beforehand in order to establish proper safety protocol, but there was nothing there I hadn’t already been made aware of, so I donned my face mask, put on a sweatshirt, and headed out the door, leaving the movie I had been watching on “pause”.
It was glorious. I had decided to leave my SLR camera at home, as I didn’t feel like messing around with disinfecting its surfaces should I have felt the need to manually adjust its controls or click the shutter button, but I did have my phone which has a pretty decent camera on it. Within maybe ten or fifteen minutes of leaving the house, I was rewarded for doing so by seeing this lovely, non-pampered 1980 El Camino parked on the street. It felt almost like it was waiting there to greet just me, saying, “Welcome back to the world outside your condo. Enjoy your afternoon.”
I was crushed when I had learned of the passing of singer/songwriter/musician Bill Withers earlier this year. I am a huge fan of his work, and of his blunt, no-frills, truthful, and yet elegant way around a song lyric. He also had an extraordinary gift for melody. Seeing the empty bed of this El Camino, some of the lyrics to a verse from his classic “Lean On Me” came to mind:
If there is a load
You have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me.
There seems to have been an unusually high concentration of troubling events recently, including the catastrophic flooding in my home state of Michigan due to the bursting of the Edenville dam (which had occurred on May 19, 2020, just before I had written this article), which led to the displacement of thousands of people. There are a lot of folks who need help carrying a load right now, whether that means with literally hauling their personal possessions, or providing other forms of support.
This ’80 El Camino has a payload probably in the neighborhood of 1,000 pounds, about half of what an average, regular-bed, half-ton pickup could haul. Does that mean its usefulness would be significantly less to the friend or loved one of the owner who really needs its services? I would guess not. It may not be able to haul what a big truck would, but that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.
Each of us has the ability to help others right now in some way, regardless of anything else that’s going on. Though we may not view our own gifts as being as potentially impactful as those that others possess, the truth is that we can’t know what our offer to help deliver groceries or even just making a phone call to someone else can mean right now. Simply showing consideration for others in whatever form that may take would be hugely appreciated by most recipients.
Even if we as individuals aren’t doing the extremely courageous and livesaving work of our health care providers and other essential workers, with all the heavy lifting – physically, emotionally, and professionally – that they’re doing right now, there’s plenty we can still do, even if only with our funds. Some of us may not be able to “haul” like a dually, but if we are the proverbial El Camino, let’s be exactly that with great gusto and help others bear the loads we can.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, May 3, 2020.