How would you fill in the blanks?

Syracuse, N.Y. Photo © Jim McKeever

As I dropped off a friend at his home recently, I noticed two women nearby. They were holding hands. One woman had her eyes closed and appeared to be praying. The other woman occasionally opened her eyes but listened intently.

From the vantage point of my car about 20 feet away, I couldn’t hear what was being said. After a few moments, the first woman stopped talking, or praying, and released her hand. The second woman began to dab at her eyes with the sleeve of her denim jacket. 

I left out some details.

The praying woman is White, probably in her 60s, and was sitting in a walker. The younger woman is Black, significantly younger. The building where my friend lives is a high-rise, with hundreds of subsidized apartments. The White woman was missing a couple of bottom teeth; the Black woman’s jacket was tattered. 

Do those facts matter? What blanks do our minds fill in when we encounter an anecdote such as this? Would the story have changed, or somehow felt different, if details of race, physical appearance or the apartment building were included up front?  

What — or who — were these two women praying for? I’ll never know and that’s fine.  

While the two women prayed together, I tried not to stare or otherwise appear that I was intruding on the moment, but the tenderness of the scene was compelling. I hope I was sufficiently unobtrusive. I drove off, somehow feeling better about the human condition than I usually do.

I was grateful for that moment of serendipity, of serenity.


  1. Jim, thanks for the reminder that we never know what’s going on with other people. Most of us could do a much better job of remembering that.

    Liked by 2 people

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