Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tonight Baby and I met up with the BFF and her boyfriend for dinner.  We were right across the street from Central Market so I decided that I had to have a slice of my favorite cake and drove on over.  As I am walking into the store, I saw a woman sitting on a bench crying but trying very hard to not pull attention to herself.  I don't know why I stopped, I don't know what made me walk over to her and ask her if I could help her.  I normally avoid situations like that, but something called me over to her.

She assured me she was fine, but I found myself pushing her to see if I could help her.  She finally admitted that she was laid off from her job three weeks ago, unemployment has not kicked in and she was not approved for emergency food stamps yet.  She had four children and the two older boys had not eaten in two days.  She didn't ask for any help, but I asked her what I could do and she refused anything.  I told her that I could understand if she didn't want me to assist her, but I wanted to make sure that her kids were fed and asked her to please let me buy her some food to bring home.  She finally agreed and Baby and I went through the store and loaded a cart up with bread, peanut butter, jelly, apples, milk, pasta and jarred sauce.

As we were walking through the store, she kept going between statements of she wasn't a bum to extreme gratitude.  She told me about her four children (ages 9, 7, 3 and 14 months-the same age as Baby).  She was so proud of her children, her eldest two just finished school for the year and both had made honor roll.  We talked about our babies and where they were both developmentally. If you saw this woman on the street you would have never guessed or assumed the troubles she was in.  She was dressed well (she told me later on she had walked to Central Market to apply for a job), she was articulate. 

After paying for the groceries, she hugged me and thanked me with more appreciation than I think I have ever received in my life.  I apologized for not being able to do more, I only was able to provide a small amount of food for a family of 6.  I regret not buying more, I should have ignored her protests.  I wish I had thought to get her a gift card (though at Central Market it wouldn't have gone far).

I realize I can't save every hungry person out there.  But the thought of her children not being able to eat for two days smacked me across the face.  Here I was going to the store just to buy a slice of cake (which costs the same amount to buy the ingredients to bake an entire cake) and her children hadn't had any food in TWO days.  I am ashamed that I forget how lucky and privileged I am.  How blessed I am that I have never had to worry about where my next meal will come from.

It makes me think about how I want to raise Baby, how I want her to have the feeling of being blessed and the appreciation of what we have.  I don't want to go as far to one extreme and every time she wastes food tell her, "there are children out there that don't even have food" because I don't believe that is productive.  I want Baby to realize how lucky we are and strive to help others in need because it is the right thing to do, not because she feels guilty.  I hope that Baby develops the a sense of community and the desire to help others.  I wish for her that when she sees a chance to help someone she takes action.  I want this to be a part of her heart, but I don't know how to instill this in her. 

That woman and her family are going to be in my heart for a long time to come.  I know she was so appreciative of the small tokens I was able to offer her and I know that I gave her some peace knowing her children were not going to go hungry tonight.  I just wish I had communicated to her how much I appreciate her letting me know her situation, letting me help her, and allowing me to gain the perspective that I very much needed.

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