How do you connect with someone that you really "shouldn't?"
*This post is th... sister story.. to a previous post that was vastly different. This is the Yes to the No in the post called No Empathy which you can read by clicking that link if you like.*
Tuesday (note this draft was started on July 19th) I had a passenger with a variegated background. It was something that hit very very close to home. I'm quite honestly shocked at myself for being so cheerful through it quite frankly.
The woman (whose full name I will not reveal for the purposes of this space) was picked up in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. For those not familiar with this particular section, it is not a great area. It is near Koreatown and downtown. There is quite a bit of crime and it's actually fairly dangerous.
So why did I take this fare?
It was broad daylight. This woman had a five star rating. It was a Lyft Line request meaning there may end up being multiple passengers going to similar destinations. Pair those with the negative balance in my bank account right now as I am still recovering financially from things that happened with my sister and... well there you have it. I said Yes to the woman also named Yes.
Yes told me that she was hot and going to sell Victoria's Secret bras to friends. I asked her about where she'd gotten them. She didn't really say. I was leery but minded my own business. I needed to focus on work.
She ended up disclosing to me that she had just gotten out of prison two months ago. She was having a difficult time and was trying to make ends meet. It was very difficult for her and she was not wanting help via a transitional home.
"That'd be just like living in prison." she told me.
"But what if it was just for a little bit to help you get the funds to get into a place of your own? Where you wouldn't have to struggle as much for a little while?"
"There's so many things already... and I have to stay in Los Angeles. I can't leave the county. It's really hard."
I wanted to help her. I offered her information with resources. I asked her if there was any help for her through any rehabilitation programs upon release. I told her that I had heard they might exist and hoped it to be true but that I didn't know for certain despite speaking to a few people in prison myself...
"You know people in prison?" she asked me.
It was as if she was suddenly hopeful. Her voice became raised to a higher pitch. She sat up and listened a bit more.
"Yes. I write a few women there."
"You are such a good person. You have no idea how much even one of those letters means to someone. How much one picture means. That is so kind of you."
"I appreciate your sentiments but it's not anything big to me even if it is. The women I write to are people too. They're just people with different stories."
Yes smiled. She was happy to listen. She was also not upset when I asked the seemingly inevitable questions that followed.
"How long were you in there?"
"I was sentenced to three years but I only did two. The person involved didn't testify. The gun was also clean and not connected to me..."
"What did you do if you don't mind me asking?"
And then she said... it.
"I went to jail for attempted murder. It was my husband. who was the victim."
I'm not sure how I didn't break down right then and there. I'm not sure how I was not immediately pouring tears and/or ending the ride. Especially after what happened to my sister. Especially after...
I just nodded. I listened some more.
"He's been really supportive since I've been out thankfully. And when I was in there as well. He was helping to take care of me a bit too. I've had some help from family. That has been very important. I don't know what I would do without them."
"Connections are important."
"Yes they are." she said.
And then I couldn't shut my mouth to stop it from asking.
"So why did you do it? Do you regret it?"
"I did it because he hit me. He should not have put his hands on me. I do not regret it."
I sat there and listened to more of her story. About her struggle with trying to find work. About her path towards making a life work after her release. My heart did not stop trying to direct her to help. I had no idea why. Shouldn't I be sitting there freaking out and getting upset? Was I broken because I wasn't? How was I so happy and kind and optimistic?
I really have no clue quite frankly.
In that moment.
Maybe I won't be in the next.
I really have no idea.
There would be another passenger on this ride coming up as well. I was going to have to try and keep quiet even more so. I wanted to protect this person from the judgement of the next. I would learn after this woman left that, it would be for the best, as that person was... not kind at all... purposely.
The next person that entered my car was rushed and not kind. She was frustrated and fast moving. She would have her own reasons which I would learn about later. But this story is about Yes and not about her No.
I offered Yes as many resources as I could. I urged her to contact 211- a local resource line that's free for Los Angeles residents. I told her about programs to assist her looking for housing, work, and even a warm meal. I wished that my site the Love Saves Lives Foundation dedicated towards this advocacy was launched already. I empathized greatly with her lack of funds and the chains of obligations even if mine were different than hers.
"There are over twenty requirements I have to follow even being out here."
Yes told me about a few of them. For many, they would seem logical and even easy in nature. For others, they might seem tremendous. Regardless of her chains and limitations in this free world, they were what they were... and they were difficult additions to her already difficult life.
"I know what I did was wrong. I'm just trying to survive now."
As it would turn out, her destination was entered improperly. It was showing as a place several blocks away from her desired location. I brought her there anyway and apologized to the second passenger.
I'm not supposed to generally do that but yet, here I was going this extra mile. Why was I doing that? Why was I doing that for someone who attempted to murder their husband? Why was I doing this for someone who did something that I...
I asked her another question. It was a question that had been brought up in family discussion.
I wanted to know from someone who knew.
I guess I could have asked one of my pen pals.
I wanted to know in that moment.
She told me.
I was thankful.
"Jail is terrible. It's way worse than prison. Jail is a nightmare. There is nothing but terrible there. At prison it's more like a dorm room. There are eight women in there. You get a job. You get music. You get all kinds of things. You have freedoms. It's not that bad. But jail? It's just terrible."
I thought of my family dealing with everything with my sister.
I thought about how much they would be "happy" to hear about this.
I then thought about... how much I just wished things were different all around.
I thought about how many people were telling Yes no.
I thought about the struggles that she was experiencing.
I thought about the struggles she may have faced potentially being abused by her husband and feeling powerless against him.
I thought about how I felt bad that she went where she did.
I thought that what she did was wrong regardless of what he did.
I thought about every abused woman out there.
I thought about the Invisible... every person who experiences abuses and is afraid of both freedom and the chains of a life with self imposed limitations.
I took it all in.
I took a deep breath.
I didn't know what to do.
I did the only thing that I could in that moment.
In that moment it was to just try to be a positive force.
I tried to remind her that everything was temporary.
I tried to be encouraging.
I have no idea if any of it did anything for her at all.
I did it anyway.
I did it anyway because it made me feel good to offer to help.
I wanted to believe in her ability to change and grow and have that second chance.
But of course my mind did return to reality as well.
I thought about that bag of bras sitting in the car that was likely stolen from Victoria's Secret as a way to try and survive in the outside world after being in prison. There was a question of ethics entered into my mind. I couldn't prove this was stolen. I never actually heard her say as much even if she'd hinted at it. Did I want to cause more problems for this person? Did she deserve them? Or...
Yes was a person.
Yes had a story.
Yes was seeking a second opportunity to make it work despite the things that had happened.
This aspect was beautiful.
She was beautiful.
As it would turn out, her destination was entered improperly. It was showing as a place several blocks away from her desired location. I brought her there anyway and apologized to the second passenger. I'm not supposed to generally do that. Why was I doing that? Why was I doing that for someone who attempted to murder their husband? Why was I doing this for someone who did something that I...
I was doing it because this woman named Yes deserved a chance. If I was apathetic, I know that I would have just been doing my sister a disservice. A person is a person regardless of their background. Helping people and having their days go a bit better is just being a human to me. I hope Yes has a better day and a better life soon. I know that she will be in my thoughts quite a bit.
What would you have done if this passenger had come into your car? How would you have reacted to hearing someone had just gotten out of prison? How would you have handled that the reason they were in prison to begin with had been because of an attempted murder of their spouse after only discovering your own sister died the same way? I want to know your thoughts if you'd share them.
Thank you kindly for reading this. I hope that your day and is full of many second chances, happenings, and hopefully changes.