On Tuesday, standing in the sun waiting for my bus connection, I realized I'd forgotten my water bottle on my desk at home. The heat was already getting unbearable even early in the day, so I quickly Googled places around Liberty that I could grab a Gatorade before heading in for a day of moving classroom furniture. There was a split second in my mind where I worried about being seen as an outsider stepping into one of these stores, and cowardly chose the commercialized Walgreens a block up the street from where I get off the bus instead of the local corner store directly at my stop.

The store was almost entirely empty at that hour in the morning, and I moved quickly to the refrigerators at the far end to grab a drink and back to the cashier. I also grabbed a pack of granola bars since I'd skipped breakfast that morning, and I remember being briefly surprised by the three or four aisles full of groceries there were because I had never associated a pharmacy with grocery shopping before.

Once I got to the counter, the woman was just finishing ringing up the man in front of me, and I waited--bouncing on the balls of my feet and taking my headphones out. She asked if I had a rewards card, and when I said no, without a second thought, she gestured for the guy who had just been rung up for his again so I could get the discounts. He saved me a few bucks, and she even recommended I grab another Gatorade because it was on sale, and I could get 2 for $4. Given the heat, I was especially thankful for her kindness.

On my walk to the school, just a block away as I cut through the parking lot, I chastised myself for feeling the way I had before—especially after the cashier had been so thoughtful—and made a point to try and think about bridging gaps as something that’s more accessible in the future.
This was challenged when, at the end of the day, that block of the road, and the parking lot I’d walked through that morning, had been blocked off with yellow police tape. A photographer whose black vest read “forensics” in big bold letters captured pictures around my bus stop, and Mr. Manko made a comment about how there had been a shooting there earlier in the day, so we’d need to find another route back to campus.

I sat quietly during the rest of the ride home, trying to assimilate the familiarity I’d found in the Walgreens that morning with the violence I’d seen later in the same place on the same day. I thought about the elementary students I'd joked around with earlier in the day living in a world where a corner being blocked off for a shooting isn't abnormal, and couldn't possibly imagine what that was like.

For every small step forward, I feel like I also take ten steps back, and I know there’s so much more to learn and it will be indescribably hard. But if this week taught me anything, I'm ready to try.