How I Connected Through Licorice

By Toni Grates

Last week, I had one of those pre-bedtime emergency mommy moments when you go to make your 2 year old’s bottle only to realize that your bonus son (so much nicer than “stepson”) has used all the rest of the milk to make his world famous chocolate shake.  I threw on my flip flops and power walked down to the gas station, realizing we had also run out of licorice.

On my way back up the street, my mouth stuffed with Twizzlers, I stopped  in my tracks as I watched a cyclist pull a dead animal by all four limbs, up onto the sidewalk.  The man started to become visibly upset. Maybe it was a cat.  “Sir, is that a cat?,” I yelled out.  “It’s a raccoon,” he replied wiping away his tears.  “I killed it!  I killed a raccoon!”

I thought about the dozens of times in my life I’d passed dead raccoons on the side of the road, thinking of them as “roadkill.”  I’d never stopped to comfort any of them.  I’d never cried over them.  I’d definitely never pet any of them.  I was so touched by this man’s love for the animal and his genuine distress over what had just happened.

Unable to walk away and determined to do something to help make this better, I stepped a little closer.  “My name is Toni.  I’d really like to do something to help.”  There was a strange silent pause. “Licorice?” I extended my opened and half eaten bag forward. “A piece of licorice would be nice,” he said, as he laughed and wiped away a tear.

I walked the rest of the way home feeling connected to the stranger on the road and touched by his actions.  We’d both let our hearts shine.  That’s what it’s all about.

Toni Grates is an actor, writer and yoga instructor.

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