Gasoline Rainbows

November 4, 2010
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He'd been watching her for over ten minutes. It's not as if he had any reason to. He wasn't her father, and even if he was, he thought remorsefully, he'd probably do nothing all the same. She wasn't over ten, and she looked almost like she had just finished rolling around in the mud before she stumbled over to Jericho Street, which, in his opinion, was no place for a eight or nine year old girl. She wasn't quite tall, but she had long legs stretching from khaki shorts. They ended with dirt encrusted sneakers that had Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Belle on them. She had on a stained white t-shirt that looked way to big for her to fit into. She had bright blue eyes, and her dirty blonde hair twisted into two braids. She was alone, as far as he could tell, and from the look on her face, even more alone than he was. For a moment he almost went over to talk to her. Almost.
Another ten minutes passed. She didn't leave yet, still just sitting on the bus bench swinging her bruised little legs back and forth. He was worried about her. Of course, it wasn't like him to worry about anyone, but for some reason, this little girl was important. He couldn't tell why. She had tears in her eyes and an empty smile on her lips. He wondered if he should tell someone. Wouldn't that be strange, going up to a police officer to say, "There's a little girl sitting over there. She's all alone. Perhaps someone should ask her what's wrong."
After another few minutes he decided to sit down on the other side of the bench. The little girl stole a glance at him, and he stole one of her, but they sat there for another few minutes before either spoke, each daring the other to fill the silence.
"My name is Sally. What's yours?" The little girl started, looking at the man next to her. He didn't say anything to her for a minute, then asked,
"Should you be talking to strangers?"
"No, but if you tell me your name, you won't be a stranger anymore. We can be friends. Do you want to be friends? We don't have to, you know, only if you want to."
He smiled. "My name's Jake. Why are you crying? Are you lost?"
"Nope. And I'm not crying." She said defensively.
"Alright. Then what are you doing out here all alone? This isn't the safest neighborhood for a little girl to be playing in."
"I'm not a little girl, and I'm not playing. I'm waiting for someone." Sally said, turning her nose up at the thought of playing.
"Are you waiting for your mother or father?" Jake asked, thinking that it was probably one of the worst ideas to leave a little girl out on a bus bench while you did your shopping.
"No. I wouldn't wait for either of them, even if they wanted me to. I'm waiting for someone very important."
"Who?" Jake asked, concerned for his little friend.
Sally was quiet for a second.
"Are you homeless?" She asked, completely changing the subject. Jake looked down at his scruffed up shoes. It was his turn to hide tears.
"I'm not exactly homeless. . . It's not really something I should discuss with a little girl."
"I told you, I'm not a little girl. And you are homeless. I've seen you before on my way to school. Don't worry. You can wait with me."
"Wait with you for who?" Jake asked, confused.
"Well, for God, of course." Sally replied.
"God? Little girl, why one Earth would you think God would pass by here?" Jake almost laughed, but the serious look in her eyes quieted him.
"Because God is everywhere, so why shouldn't he be here? He'll make everything better. And if you wait for him, too, he'll help you too."
"Sally, God isn't like that. He won't help you with your problems. Take it from a guy who lives on the streets. Waiting for salvation that's not coming isn't worth it."
"I think you're wrong."
"No, I'm not. Now, you'd better head home or your mother will be worried."
"It's more important to wait. He could be here any second."
"But what if he isn't?"
"I'd rather wait for hope that might not exist than live a life sadness pretending there is no chance for any of us." Sally said simply.
And for a moment neither spoke. Jake did not stand and hurry away, as he was planning on doing before she spoke.
Sally continued, "I think that if you at least try to hope life won't be so hard."
"But what if you're wrong, and the hope does us no good?"
"Hopefully I won't ever have to know I'm wrong. That's the thing about life. There are both smiles and tears."
"How will you know you're right? That you're hope is working for you?"
"I'll know it worked the next time I smile. I think I'm going to smile now, and go home."
"Why? Aren't you waiting for God?" Jake asked, a bit fazed by how wise this nine year old girl was.
"I was, but I guess he was busy, so he sent a rainbow instead."
Jake looked over his shoulder and all around the sky, but saw no rainbows. "What are you talking about?"
Sally pointed to a gasoline rainbow on the street. "It's just enough."
"That's hardly a miracle. Rainbows from gasoline are tiny little things that aren't usually all that pretty."
"It's perfect, silly! Can't you see? A big old rainbow could be for anybody, but this tiny one, right in front of me, is just for me. No one else can really see it, no one else has to see it. It's a personal message." Sally stood up, and smiled. "Good bye!" She waved at her newfound friend and skipped away.

Later that night, as Jake sat in the shelter among other homeless people, where people spoke of hardships, and sadness, he had a new story to tell.
"Today I waited for God. And you know what? I think I met her."

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