© Leann E. Johnson/lea-way.com
© Leann E. Johnson/lea-way.com


Dear Lady Who Fell:

I’m sorry you fell Tuesday night, a little after 8 p.m. I hope you’re
okay. Your husband looked mighty upset when you fell. I would’ve
been upset too, after spending all that money to live on property that allows
ice to freeze in front of the entrance. If I were you, I would complain, and sue
if necessary.

I’m writing to you because I don’t know if you recognized what happened that night.
A brother and I watched you walk out that door, slip, scream, and land flat. We heard
your exasperated cry in pain. We rushed to you, and I grabbed your hand. We listened
to you tell us that your tailbone and head hurt. The caring brother pleaded with you
to not rise right away. And you listened. You sat there for a few moments to regroup.
You held my left hand gently during those moments. I watched you take breath after breath,
and you grimaced with each one. Before we assisted you up from the brown ice beneath
you, I ensured that you were ready to stand. Then I released your hand and told you to
take care of yourself, and we bid you good night.

Fifty years ago, I wouldn’t have shown compassion to you because of your race and my
own would’ve judged me harshly. Just fifty years ago, you would’ve rejected my hand to
help you up. You wouldn’t have held my hand. Instead, you would’ve blamed me for
making you fall and I wouldn’t have been able to state my defense because my skin
color would’ve convicted me. Hatred would’ve led you to spit on my sympathy and curse
my concern. Fear would’ve made your husband push that brother away to protect you. Fifty
years ago, I wouldn’t have attended an ethnically diverse meeting concerning the
community of Saint Paul. When I left that meeting, I witnessed you fall.

Since I don’t know your name, I will refer to you as the lady who fell. Notice I don’t
use an adjective before “lady,” describing color. That night when I held my hand out to you,
I wasn’t gesturing for a tip. Now, I’m not seeking a reward for helping you. I’m just
recognizing that in fifty years race relations have changed so much. Today, I’m not
afraid to reach out to you, not worried about what others will think if I react quickly
to help you.

Thank you for not pulling away from that brother and me. Thank you for not
repeating the vicious cycle that has hardened my people even more than the ice that
made you slip and fall that night. Thank you for holding my hand.


The Girl Who Helped You Up