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A Glimpse of Poverty and Suffering

November 19, 1988

Recently, I had a glimpse of what it means to be poor.

I ride the bus to UCLA twice a week to attend a class. I've opted to leave my $25,000 Acura Legend sitting in the carport, rather than do battle with the parking problem around the campus. I haven't traveled by public transportation since I was a teen-age girl, 40 years ago. The bus I ride stops in front of the UCLA Medical Center, and as the weeks passed, I've watched many people alighting there, some with great difficulty. Often I see young mothers with babies in their arms and runny-nosed toddlers hanging on to their skirts. I've watched as they struggled to get off, sometimes lugging strollers. I never before realized, or even thought about, the difficulty of having to make one's way to the hospital and the doctor's office via public transportation.

Recently, a woman boarded with such obvious physical difficulty that I felt her pain. Her face was drawn and gray, and with the help of her cane and her husband, she slowly made her way up the steps and collapsed into the first available seat near the door. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. She was at least 25 years younger than I. Her face was racked with pain, and she kept her eyes closed the whole time, as if to shut out the world as well as the pain. Her husband, with his arm around her, tried to cradle her from the jostling of the bus, but she winced with each bump. He sat straight and tall next to her, and she leaned her head on his shoulder. I could see her pain in his dignified face.

I looked down at my hands, and saw the diamond ring that I wear. "How is it that the value of what I wear on my finger, if put to a different use, could make someone else's life so much better?" I asked myself. For a moment, a fleeting thought rushed through my mind. "Take off the ring and give it to them." The bus stopped in front of the hospital, and again, with excruciating slowness from her obvious pain, they got off.

I rode on, the ring still on my finger.

GLORIA CARIS

Culver City

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