David Greene, You Have My Full & Undivided Attention


I am driving home from morning carpool, listening with half an ear to NPR’s Morning Edition. David Greene is reporting a follow-up to a story from 2009.

Izola White, now 88 years old, owned a diner on Chicago’s South Side for more than 50 years.  Izola’s was a 24-hour operation that served delicious food together with refuge from the streets of a rough neighborhood.  Due to her own illness and the country’s economic downturn, White was forced to close the diner two years ago.

I hear the emotion in her voice as she describes her current circumstances and her desire to reopen the diner.  Her godson, Dewayne Mason, comes to the phone. He and Greene discuss the downward spiral into poverty among African-American families and the deterioration of Izola’s neighborhood.

I am turning off the main road into my own neighborhood when Greene grabs my full and undivided attention.  Later, at my desk, I will visit the website so that I can replay his words and reflect on what I learned from the final seconds of his report.

After Greene finished listening to Mason’s account of the situation, he asked permission to say goodbye to Ms. White.  If he had merely thanked her for her time, I might not have remembered the story at all. But because he spoke to her with such kindness, I was drawn into the conversation at its close. He demonstrated in just a few words that he had been listening carefully–that is, with great caring–to her story.

Here, at the very end, is the evidence that David Green is a mensch, a decent human being, who doesn’t hear the painful details of another person’s story without feeling them.  In my opinion, it is worth listening for five minutes to hear these words spoken in his voice:

“Ms. White, it was very nice catching up with you. I really appreciate the time and I hope I can come for a visit – a visit to Izola’s soon and it will be back opened and you’ll be feeling good.”




Comments (2)

I heard that story too and it made me cry. So very beautiful and a reminder of the call to humanity, to be present to one another. That is what Greene did and beautifully so. Thanks for reminding me of this today.

Thank you, Fran, for the comment and the retweet. This story grabbed my attention, but I didn’t start crying until later in the news when the Black woman from New England shared her experiences of racisim when traveling through the region of the country that has been her home for her entire life. When she floated the theory that living in the south, where hers would not be the only black face in a crowd, might be easier, I felt her pain of “otherness” so keenly, and I cried. That was quite a morning for me; it took a week until I had thought it over long enough to write about it.

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