|The people in the Tenderloin are friendly, and real. Most are living in poverty, and cannot afford the paraphernalia of wealth.|
A TENDERLOIN STORY: THE WINDOW WASHER by Mary Jessup: I live in San Francisco in the Tenderloin neighborhood. The area has an awful reputation, and some people are afraid of the Tenderloin. But when you live in the Tenderloin, you realize its radiance. This little story is about the neighborhood, and the community. It was told to me by the window washer, and so I named the story after him.
A couple of weeks ago the management of my residential building hired a window washer to clean the exterior windows of our building. The man worked all day Saturday and Sunday. He did an excellent job. I was happy to have clean windows. Sunday morning, when exiting the building, I saw the window washer. He was standing on the sidewalk, taking a break. He had all his equipment with him, and I knew it was him. “Hi,” I said, smiling. “Thank you for washing the windows. You did a great job.” He smiled. “Hi,” he said. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome,” I said.
“You people in the Tenderloin talk to me,” he said. “You all talk to me, and say thank you. People here tell me they appreciate my work. They sometimes give me tips. And food.” “Wow! That’s wonderful,” I said. “Yeah,” he said. “I work all over the City. And nobody talks to me. In the Tenderloin people talk to me. They’re friendly.”
That is it. The people in the Tenderloin are friendly, and real. Most are living in poverty, and cannot afford the paraphernalia of wealth. The Tenderloin is not scary. It is real. The people are real, and they’re living a real life. Among the people of the Tenderloin, there is no pretense.
Poverty strips away arrogance, snobbishness, the sense of separation, which we call “us” and “them.” The poverty of the Tenderloin teaches humility. It is true that the Tenderloin is a harsh neighborhood, raw and rough. Life is lived on the streets. Everything is seen. There are no secrets. Experience teaches that life in the Tenderloin is the same as life everywhere else in the City, except everywhere else, life is concealed by facades.
The Tenderloin is San Francisco’s shadow. Every day on the streets, the citizens of the Tenderloin confront the dark side of life, the evil. This is a service performed by the residents of the Tenderloin for the remaining residents of the City. Living life in the shadow is the Tenderloin’s spiritual gift to San Francisco.
Poverty helps people to be truly human, to be authentic. We don’t think about it, we live it. We live our humanity. To be human is to be friendly.