Pumpkins With A Purpose

There's a bit of meaning in everything we do.

My schedule has a new twist these days.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I spend ninety minutes receiving physical therapy (PT) for an ankle I sprained over the summer.

A weak ankle certainly isn’t a life-or-death matter. However, my doctor prescribed six weeks of twice-weekly PT sessions at Athletico (on the second floor of 909 Davis Street) to relieve the pain and stiffness I feel from an ankle I twisted -- really hard -- back in July. The appointments involve a series of exercises to strengthen the damaged muscles and tendons, some ultrasound treatments to break up scarred tissue, and a mix of massage and ice to encourage healing. The sessions are held in a bright room facing east, overlooking the CTA’s Davis Street “L” stop.

During one of my sessions last week, I lay on my stomach, arms crossed under my chin, while the physical therapist tugged and pulled on my foot. Facing the windows, I was struck by the sight of a woman standing on the “L” platform. Only fifty feet separated us, but our worlds seemed miles apart. While outward appearances can be deceiving, I’m quite certain the woman was in need of help. She looked disheveled and dirty, wearing far too many layers for the day’s unseasonable warm temperature. Over one shoulder she lugged a massive duffel bag, and her other hand guided a curious toddler who also wore more clothing than the weather demanded. The woman continuously, though gently, coaxed the toddler away from the platform’s edge. I never caught sight of their faces (though I tried), but the woman’s body language suggested she was weary and  not unkind.

In those moments, watching this woman carry the weight of motherhood and unknown struggle on her shoulders, I felt a dual sense of guilt and good fortune. Was the woman unwell? Homeless? Fleeing an unsafe environment? Did she need help? Or, like many mothers, was she simply overdressed (and overwhelmed) that day?

The child raised his arms up toward the woman, and she bent to drop the heavy duffel to pick him up. She held him while walking in circles around their bag.

With every other step, she limped.

I have chosen to come here, I thought, lying comfortably on a therapeutic bed to receive care (covered 95% by health insurance) for an ache I find annoying.  She is there, perhaps not by choice, tolerating her ache because she must.

To what can we attribute our destiny? How do we fall into the columns of “more” or “less” fortunate? Is it luck? Hard work? Fate? Karma? Does the slide toward struggle, or homelessness, or worse, happen because of a lack of healthcare? A failed economy? A weak educational system?

The same day I witnessed the woman on the “L” platform, I received an email from Evanston resident Daniela Val, a volunteer with ESCCA program:

I'm a volunteer for ESCCA, the Evanston School Children's Clothing Association, a wonderful community nonprofit organization. ESCCA's annual Pumpkin sale fundraiser will be on Saturday, October 15th from 8am-2pm.  It's held in the Coldwell Banker parking lot at 2929 Central St. in Evanston, right across the street from Hartigan's Ice Cream Shop. There will be hundreds of pumpkins to choose from at prices competitive to the groceries and farmer's markets, so please do all your pumpkin buying to benefit ESCCA!

For those who don't know about ESCCA, it has been around since the Great Depression and provides needy K-8 children with complete school wardrobes, coats, shoes and boots.  We clothe approximately 600 children every year.

Since Coldwell Banker donates the pumpkins to us, 100% of the pumpkin sales go directly to the purchase of new jeans, shoes and underwear for the children.  ESCCA is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff.

Feel free to forward this to others.  Doesn't everyone need at least one pumpkin?

Mark your calendar:

Saturday, October 15th,  8am-2pm

2929 Central St. Evanston  

Many thanks!


As much as I've attributed my twisted ankle to clumsiness, I wonder if the incident holds a deeper meaning and significance.


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