The story of today's stranger has a common thread with yesterday's stranger, Kelso. It was two days later in a different town, Bradenton where there was a Thursday afternoon tradition; two blocks of a main street were blocked off and a street concert ensued at 6PM. A stage was erected at the end of the street, two rows of folding chairs were set up in a semicircle around the stage, and a couple of hundred people walked around several kiosks selling trinkets, beer, and artery-clogging foods.
As I watched the goings on, I turned around as a woman, Judy, passed, very closely. So close that I could not quickly gather my wits and approach her. She reminded me of someone I used to see on TV. Later, I realized that it was the actress Rue McClanahan whom she resembled (to me). But she was quickly by me, and she held several small bags of potato chips. She walked up to the front row of seats and passed the chips to listeners, slowly speaking to each recipient. Looking more closely I realized that they all had Downs Syndrome, or some other developmental disability. Then I was REALLY sorry that I had not approached her.
So I just took in the music for several minutes. There was no way that I could break into the group to meet Judy, and the music (which I liked) was too loud anyway. Finally the band took a 10 minute break, and Judy walked into an adjacent bar. I immediately positioned myself between the bar and the stage, and waited. As she emerged with a well deserved umbrella drink, I asked her for a favor, and went into my spiel. Judy looked incredulous, like she was going to laugh into my face until I said “I saw the people that you are helping over there. That's very nice.” She looked down with a more serious expression, “Thank you.” The ice was broken.
Judy and her husband retired in Salt Lake City nearly 20 years ago; her children are still there. Judy and her husband moved to Bradenton to live out their golden years, but he promptly died. Nearly 16 years ago, Judy began to volunteer for an organization that helps people with Downs Syndrome and other developmental disorders. I said that she must have the patience of Job. She looked up and rolled her eyes. Then I told her about yesterday's stranger, Kelso, who teaches glass blowing to children with Down's Syndrome. Judy looked down and shook her head. Clearly, and not surprisingly, this work has an emotional effect on her.
After a few clicks of the shutter, I showed Judy her image on the LCD. She said, “Oh God, that's awful.” So I got a few more images, but she didn't like any of them. She wished me good luck when we parted, but she didn't want any of the photos.