August 25, 2004

Natalie from Toronto doesn't like Vancouver

Today, in the block between Starbucks and my job, I met this tiny little old lady, probably not much over four feet tall.

When she said "Excuse me. Can you help me?", I thought she was going to ask for some spare change. In fact, she started explaining that she was lost and looking for a place where she could get some hot food. She said that she was from Toronto, and was here because her son had recently died. She had come to collect his ashes.

"Have you lived in Vancouver very long?" she asked me.

"Over 25 years" I replied.

"I don't know this city" she said.

"Do you like Vancouver?"

"Ughh, I hate Vancouver. In Toronto, you can go anywhere and find a place to eat and to buy whatever you need, but here I don't know."

"It must be hard to be in a strange city" I said, looking in each direction and trying to think of the closest place where she could get some hot food. Then I remembered. "There's a little place right up here on the corner where you could get a hot bowl of soup or something."

I motioned ahead of me, and we started walking. She took tiny, slow little steps, and I hunched over to listen to her as she continued to talk about Toronto and Montreal - cities she knew much better than mine.

"What is your name?" I figured I should introduce myself since we had now met and had a little chat.

"My name is Natalie."

"Hi Natalie. I'm John." She held out a tiny, wrinkled hand which I shook gently.

I held open the door of the "Butler and Baker" cafe, and she said "God bless you. Thank you John" and went inside.

I have become accustomed to people approaching me on the street just asking for money (which in most cases I'm ready to give). However, it's also nice to be able to help someone by just listening to them and giving a little bit of goodwill.

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