About a week ago, SOS asked me, “why don’t we give to people who ask for money on the street?”
Oh, no, time for a lesson in cynicism.
“Well, buddy, we don’t know if they really need money and, if they do, are they using the money to buy drugs or food? I used to give to everyone and then I realized the hard lesson that some people are not being truthful.”
My answer did not sit well with me at all. I kept thinking that children will heal the world unless their parents interfere and fill their minds with cynicism.
We were doing errands yesterday.
“Hey, bud. Remember the conversation that we had about giving to people on the streets? Well, I want to talk more about it. We give to charities that help these people. We are willing to pay more in taxes for social programs and we go door to door to help get out the vote for people who will institute these programs. But it doesn’t mean that a particular person will be helped, just that we will make inroads in resolving the problem.”
“Ok,” was SOS’s non-committal answer.
Sometimes, kids ask those questions that make you think about all the juicy rationalizations that make your life livable with a more-or-less clear conscience.
And my easy, arm chair liberal answers didn’t sit well with me either.
I should have said, “I don’t have time to get down and dirty with strangers. I can’t get involved and take on every person’s broken life. And Darwin is right.”
There. I said it. (to you and not to my son)
Last night, I could not sleep. As crazy as it sounds, I kept thinking about Rabbi Hillel: if I am only for myself, who will be for me?
Being homeless is my number 1 neurotic fear. And yet I told my son that it was ok to look away when you see the homeless.
During my sleepless night, all the things that I should have done, shouldn’t have done, did, and didn’t do, haunted me.
Tonight, the three of us had an early sushi dinner. We picked the closest Japanese restaurant because it is beyond cold outside.
We were on our way back from eating lots of sushi and dropping a lot of money on dinner.
As we crossed onto our block, I saw a mother with an elementary school-aged child taking recyclables out of the trash cans. They had a cart like the homeless. To be honest, I have never seen homeless Asians. It was 7pm and that child should be home.
I told POB and SOS to go ahead up to the house. I had to go back. I needed to make sure the girl had a warm coat, gloves and a hat (she did) and that they weren’t going to spend the night outside. I went over to the mother, “do you have a place to stay tonight?” She didn’t understand and was a little afraid. I must have been very earnest in my question. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?” I repeated. I would have given them money for the night, if only because it would mean strength to fight another day and rest for a child before a school day.
Pause. She smiled. “Yes. Yes. Yes. We have a home. Thank you. Happy new year!!”
I smiled and walked away. And I wondered, was she telling me the truth or protecting her pride?
I won’t ever know.
What I do know is that my child pushed me to be more than I was yesterday.
God bless the child.