Grocery shopping done. Now it’s time to stand up for a cause.
I return home from a long day, and put the groceries in the fridge. Shopping’s done. Check that off my to-do list (which is as long as my arm, by the way). But between all the errands and tasks, I also need to fit in some exercise before the sun goes down, so I leave my car in the driveway and walk downtown. I stop by my office to drop something off before heading on to my next task, when the guy in the apartment upstairs calls down two flights: “You going to the rally?”
“What rally?” I ask.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” he says, peering down the flight of stairs I’m climbing up.
“What rally?” I ask again.
“It’s for Orlando,” he says. He’s tall and thin with a funky asymmetrical haircut and he’s looking down at a couple of boxes at his feet. “Can you carry one of these downstairs?”
I pick up a carton overflowing with metal gadgets and poles I can’t identify–and that I can barely hold. “You can leave it right outside on the sidewalk,” he says, watching me struggle beneath the weight of my load.
“Where’s the rally?” I huff, as I try to navigate the stairs.
His arms are full, too, so he pushes the front door open with his shoulder and hip. “City Hall,” he says.
I end up carrying the box, which I learn contains parts of the sound system for the speakers at the rally, the block and a half downtown. I’m barely able to keep up with the young man as he crosses the street, winds around the police lines and climbs the steps at City Hall.
Neither of us had a free hand to secure the door to our building, so I volunteer to run back and lock up. “I’ll be right back,” I say. But I consider just going home. I have lots to do, after all, and I’ve gotten my workout from all that walking and lifting—so at least I can check that off my list.
But then I run into the woman who cleans my apartment, and who recently married the woman of her dreams. And I see people pushing baby carriages, and carrying signs, all converging on City Hall, and I’m feeling carried along by emotions now. Even in the midst of all of my busyness, I haven’t been able to stave off the heavy feeling in my heart every time I think about the murders in Orlando. So, I follow what feels like a growing pedestrian tide back to the rally.
There I see a friend I’ve known since I was 18, a local artist, and someone I recognize from a karate class I took some 30 years ago. I say hello to a former colleague whose partner died of cancer a year or so ago. We say it’s good to be standing in this crowd, to know there are others whose hearts hurt, too.
I used to attend a lot of rallies and marches, but lately I don’t seem to have a much time for activism. This crowd looks different from the ones I’ve joined in the past. It’s not just young people, it’s not just gay people, not just hippie-types or political-types or any particular type. The whole town, it seems, is here: The mayor, a woman I recognize from my yoga class, a friend’s grown daughter who’s home on her college break, and a writer friend. The saleswoman who sold me my winter coat at a downtown boutique is handing out paper cups filled with water, as well as paper cups to use as candle holders.
I listen to speeches in English interpreted for those who speak Spanish, and speeches in Spanish interpreted for those who speak English, and everything is interpreted into sign language. Which makes for slow going, but that’s okay, I realize, because while carrying everyone along means we won’t make good time, it also means we’ll feel better—we’ll be better—when we get there.
Placards bearing words about love and anger and fear bob above our heads, while at my feet a dog dozes and a small boy sits cross-legged on the pavement eating a big slice of pizza. Meanwhile, the photographer from the local newspaper where I used to work is pointing her camera at all of it.
My to-do list isn’t getting any shorter, but I stay a while anyway. It’s where I know I need to be. In front of City Hall. In the back of the crowd. And although I won’t be able to check it off any list at the end of the day, I know that something important is getting done.