Knowing Bess

I have a new acquaintance in my life named Bess who collects cans and bottles early in the morning.  She has quite an enterprise by the time I see her at 6…two full shopping carts rivaling her height.

One can’t help being impressed when you realize the effort she puts in, not to mention pushing her wares to a market giving the best buck…sure couldn’t call it glamorous humbling me when I see her.

“Good morning Bess,” I say, as she ambles toward me. “Did you have good luck today?”

“Oh yay-es,” she says. “I stoted in Murra Heel ay’en worked ma waay up.  Some-bady had a potty, so ahs able ta load up earla.  Trouble ees, nothins open down they-a teel late, so heah ah am, me and ma achin back.”

I love listening to her half Harlem, left over southern drawl marveling at her lack of self-pity at what she needs to do to survive.

There’s that Franciscan in me wanting to help, but instinct intervenes.  Once I offered her coffee and she shut down like a clam.

Pride is a funny thing.  God knows I’ve had it in spades most of my life, so I get why any sort of perceived handout might unnerve her.

Sometimes it’s all you’ve got left.


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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23 Responses to Knowing Bess

  1. micklively says:

    I know nothing of welfare in the US. Is there an official catch-net to prevent folk from starving on the street?


  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    Pride and self-respect have no price. About 40 years ago I put $100 in an envelope and placed it in with an acquaintance’s mail because I knew the person would not take it from anyone. I simply printed a note that said ‘you are loved’. She never suspected it was me because we weren’t very close. But I hope she thought of all those around her as loving her.
    I think your friendliness and acknowledgement that Bess exists is worth more than money to her.


  3. A woman I worked with collected cans to help pay her way through college. She talked about it once and I was fascinated. She could end up with a couple hundred bucks on a good night. College campuses were great places (at least in the 80s) because kids drink a lot of soda. Before hearing her story I had associated this with mostly homeless people doing it. It is a big business and if you don’t have a big ego you can do well (depending of course on where you are). I love that this woman was so proud she wouldn’t accept coffee. (I bet she raised her kids right!) I, on the other hand, would! A nice Starbucks please.


  4. This is only a thought, Susannah, not a suggestion. I wonder if you brought two cups of coffee (perhaps imply they gave you a free one) and maybe say “I can’t drink two Bess, and would you mine.” Who knows, a park bench, lovely conversation and…well, couldn’t hurt.


  5. Hens House says:

    She sounds like a wonderful lady, who has maybe seen better times. As she gets to know u better maybe she’ll have that coffee with you as two friends.


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