This I Believe

Deborah - Venice, California
Entered on February 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

Being Someone Else

Coming back from a run, I saw the black canvas bag sitting pressed against the walkstreet wall, top open and displaying its contents to the sky as if waiting for someone. I walked up cautiously, looked around, expecting an owner to be hovering near by. But I was alone. I hesitated to touch the bag. What if someone appeared and thought I was a thief rummaging for booty?

The street remained silent and the bag called to me, so I bent down and tentatively pushed around the visible contents looking for a wallet or some identification, but I found none. I figured there was little I could do, so I stood and continued towards my home thinking, ‘Someone else will take care of this.’ But then I thought, ‘Someone else? Aren’t I someone else?’

I ran inside my home, grabbed my dog awaiting his walk, and headed back out. Facing the bag once again, I further studied its contents. A battery-dead walkie-talkie, hair tape, sewing kit, boxes of safety pins, fabric pouches. I thought, ‘Make up and hair person.’

I stepped away from the bag and moved towards the Venice beachside boardwalk, my eyes scanning for evidence of a film crew. A few blocks north, production trucks stood gathered in a parking lot. I went into a slow jog dragging my dog with me.

“Hey,” I said, arriving next to a location trailer. “Did anyone here lose a black bag?” I described what I found and soon stood with a crewmember eagerly following directions to my street to retrieve the bag. She took off on a bike.

When I arrived on my block, she was huddled over the bag. “Well, the cellphone’s gone, but it seems like everything else is here.” She thanked me enormously, threw the bag over her shoulder, and hopped back on her bike and peddled away.

How many times have I waited for someone else to lend a hand, for another passing driver to aid the broken down car by the side of the road, for another pedestrian to rummage through the seemingly abandoned backpack, for someone else to run after the loose dog? How many times when confronted by an inconvenient, non-emergency did I call up the imagined ‘someone else.’

But this time I was the one to reach into a stranger’s life and lend a hand. And as I saw the stranger peddling away, I breathed in being someone else.

I believe that by slowing down, stepping outside myself, and lending a hand in even the smallest of gestures – by being that ‘someone else’ – I can help build a stronger community and quiet the complaint that distance is growing between us. And I believe if ever my mind tells me, ‘Someone else will take care of it,’ I can respond by saying, ‘I’m someone else.’