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"Why so quiet?" I said as I pulled up a chair to the outdoor table. "It's a lovely day."

Marsha looked up at sky for a moment, her expression wistful. "Thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr.."

"Yeah," I said. "Wish he were still with us. All we have now is his inspiration. There is still so much work to be done."

"That's why I'm quiet, if you must know," Marsha said. "Among other things. I used to believe that we--I--had come a long way, but--"

I looked around at the busy town square. Middle class and diverse. "But?"

"See that kid over there?" she pointed to a young black teen, fashionably dressed with an earring and nose ring.


"Well, when I was walking here to get my lunch, I saw him throw something whitish into the fountain."

"Yeah?" I saw lots of trash cans around the outdoor food court. "You know, littering is a thousand dollar ticket in Singapore."

"Well, it triggered my judgmental side. I just walked over to the kid and told him to pick it up out of the water."

"So? Littering is a thousand dollar ticket in Singapore."

She shook her head. "He hesitated, so I said 'fish it out' again and walked after him. 'The trash can's over there.' He said something I couldn't catch. Finally, he reached over and picked it up and responded again."

"What'd he say?"

"'It's just ice.' And it was. A piece of ice, that would melt in the water in the fountain." Rueful.

"Well, even so, he shouldn't have been throwing ice in the fountain either. You were right to say something."

"That isn't my point, though. Would I have said anything if he'd been white? Would I have chided him for littering if he looked like us?"

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Jill Jackson is a practitioner of kindness and common sense. Unlike her cat, she prefers to think out of the box.

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