College Essay: Thanks, Neighbor

Greater Eastside St. Paul. African American and Spanish music blasts, the smell of weed fills the hot summer air, trash covers the streets, and you can’t tell the difference between the sounds of gunshots and fireworks. As unsettling as my neighborhood sounds, this particular event changed my perception of my community.

I’m on the Metro Bus coming home from a sweaty, exhausting day after chasing two buses just to get to school. I check the time on my phone — 3:44 p.m. I have one more stop left until I get off. Relieved to go home, I stuff my phone in my back pocket.

“This stop for 7th and Arcade Street,” the bus operator reports. I trudge through the doors of the bus, looking forward to being in the comfort of my home. All of a sudden,
I feel a void in my left back pocket— where I placed my phone. My heart suddenly drops to the pit of my stomach, begins throbbing in my ears as my shaking hands search my back pockets. My worst nightmare was confirmed — I left my phone on the bus. As I make this horrifying realization, the bus speeds away.

Gloria Ngwa
Gloria Ngwa

Not knowing what else to do, I immediately start to chase the bus. One of my life mottos is “Gloria Doesn’t Run” because of my lack of stamina, but I run like my life is on the line. My long legs stand no chance against the turbo-speeding bus and my throbbing heart makes me nauseous. After about a half block, someone calls out.

“Hey! Your stuff ’s all over the sidewalk.”

My pencil case, books, notebooks, folders and my bag of chips litter the once-clean sidewalk of Arcade Street.

“Oh shit!” I say out loud, not caring about who is around because of how upset I am. I go back to pick up my things, holding back tears with a huge lump in my throat.

That’s when a red car pulls up next to me. I look up and see a Hispanic man, maybe in his early 20s. He has brown eyes, brown curly hair in a man bun and a connecting beard. He asks, “What happened?”

“I left my phone on the bus!” I say in exasperation.

“Hop in,” he invites. “I’ll drive you to catch up with the bus.”

I suppress my mom’s and everyone else’s voices: “Haven’t you heard of ‘stranger danger’?” Yes, I have. I’m all about stranger danger, but my phone has everything on it. And living on the Eastside, if anyone sees anything that’s luxurious lying around unattended, they’re gonna steal it.

I think he might be a father since I see a car seat, so, still cautious and on high alert, I hop in his car. I don’t care that we’re going 60 miles per hour and I’m not wearing my seat belt because we catch the bus.

Thanking him endlessly, I run to the front of the line to where I was seated and am reunited with my phone. My anxiety is gone. The young man isn’t there when I try to thank him again.

Ever since that moment, my perception of my neighborhood has changed. There are good people in my community who will do things for me. By telling my story, not only do I amplify unheard voices, but I hope that other people may change their negative assumptions and be able to see all communities in a better light.

Now whenever I’m walking around my neighborhood, I am glad to say I no longer keep my phone in my back pocket. And I am now assured that whatever happens, there’s going to be a good Samaritan who will be there to help me. Finding that little but meaningful joy makes me feel happy.