“That’s a very beautiful baby,” the homeless man who sits on a ledge at a corner near my residence uttered as we walked by.
I see him on a regular basis sometimes passing him on my way and seeing him again in that same spot hours later when I return.
On this especially warm day, he was dressed in a tattered winter coat. But this time instead of just glancing at him out of the corner of my eye and hurrying along, I stopped and looked at his face and into his eyes and honored his identity.
He became, in that brief moment, more than a stranger.
Through the baby, we made a connection. I said “thank you” and he smiled.
When I first moved back into the city three-and-a-half years ago, I was determined to walk my neighborhood of downtown and to branch out into the others on a regular basis.
I am meant to be an urban dweller.
Walking a city is a glorious experience even if I sometimes feel I need to be on “high alert.” As Detroit has come alive again, we are faced with increased traffic, honking horns, people on bicycles, blowing papers, strangers in a hurry, tourists with backpacks, people walking dogs, and down-on-their-luck citizens who might ask for money.
All of this is part of living in any big city. It truly is the urban experience and one that puts me in my element.
But a year ago, I was presented with the miracle that is the first grandchild. Though her parents live in the suburbs, they come into the city at least every other weekend. But what would it be like walking with a baby in a stroller here?
Suddenly, I was fiercely protective but didn’t express it.
I was determined to walk around as usual. To my delight, local Detroiters did not disappoint me. The baby became the tie that binds.
As the months went by, they smiled and cooed and waved, complimented her outfits and wanted to know more about her. And, I decided, based on my experience with the homeless man, I would look into each of their faces, no matter how brief the encounter or who the person might be so that we could identify with each other through my granddaughter. They were being kind and I wanted to show mutual respect.
Looking into another’s face and truly listening to what they are expressing is a wondrous thing even on a city street.
I have begun to unwrap Detroit like a gift one face at a time. And a little child shall lead them.