STANDING STILL

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Several years ago I was walking around the Venice Beach neighborhood, just ambling down the sidewalk when I saw a guy approaching who was scrawny, disheveled, and talking audibly to himself. As we drew abreast, I gave him a friendly smile, at which point he stopped and with a note of desperation asked–pled, really: “Would you do me a favor? Would you just stand still and let me walk around you ten times?”

“Absolutely,” I replied, and stood still, and he walked around me ten times, thanked me profusely, and proceeded on.

I’ve been thinking of that interchange a lot lately. Maybe because it’s so seldom that a stranger asks for help in this world, and maybe because it’s seldom that you can offer the exact help needed and know that the help has “landed:” been received; provided relief. Standing still doesn’t require any special expertise or charism so I didn’t feel as I often do when responding to a request that I was “doing it wrong.” I didn’t worry that I was incompetent.

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