A couple of weeks ago, after exiting the Wilson CTA station in Chicago, I walked down Broadway on my way to a store. Walking in front of me was a young black man, whom I judged to be in his twenties, wearing those wide-legged-just-below-the-knee shorts that are popular now. Not unlike Reverend Jesse Jackson, who admitted in 1993 that his sense of safety (or risk) had been based on the color of persons walking behind him, I wondered if this young black man in front of me was a potential threat. I was glad he was walking in front of me rather than behind me. I can thank the news for my paranoia.
The young man ran into some black male friends standing in front of a store. They greeted each other verbally and gave each other ritualized hugs and handshakes. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself as I passed them, “Wonder what they’re up to.”
Shortly after passing them, a black, male senior citizen came up to me and begged for help in buying him something to eat. I told him that I only had four dollars. He could have two. He took the two dollars and thanked me as I walked away. Shortly thereafter I encountered a white man sitting on the curb, holding out a plastic cup for donations. I did not want to appear to be prejudiced (as though there was anybody around me who cared), so I stopped, told him that I only had two dollars. I could give him one. He thanked me, and I continued walking to the corner where I had to stop for a red light.
As I stood at the red light, the young black man in the shorts came up to me and held out a dollar. I was obviously puzzled by his offer. He explained that he had heard me giving away all my money. Oh, my goodness (or should I say, “Oh, his goodness”). I was stunned. He had been walking behind me and overheard my conversations with the two men.
I took the dollar and thanked him. I don’t remember what I said to him about his kindness as we crossed the street together, but I know I said something. When we reached the other side, I told him that I wrote for a newspaper and would like to write a story about him. Who wouldn’t? I asked him his name and then got his phone number so I could send him a copy of the story when it came out.
His name was (is) Donovan. Donovan’s compassion and generosity really struck me. His considerate behavior made me confront my prejudices based on age, dress, gender, and color. I was reminded of the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (at least not all the time).
I looked up the meaning of the name Donovan when I got home and learned that Donovan is an Irish name meaning “brown-haired chieftain” and is derived “from an Irish surname meaning dark brown.” The American meaning of the name is “strong fighter.” Donovan, my (dark) brown hero on Broadway, had made my day. I hope reading about Donovan makes yours.