I am reposting this from L.R.Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources because it is so worth preserving for me…so worth sharing…so worth reminding myself that I can always be a little kinder…
@the path less taken
“I lied today. I told a lie. Or maybe a half truth depending on how you look at it. This is going to be long because I’m feeling wordy. And rant-y. And sad. And gloriously happy. All the feels.
I met a woman today with her darling 21 month old daughter. They were standing outside the Target off Balboa Ave with a cardboard sign saying they were hungry. I walked up to them with a shopping cart (with a Laelia in it) and said, “Groceries? Let’s shop!”
Now Laelia and I were there to spend some “free” money we had (unknowingly) earned by participating in an in-depth study on the effects of drinking during pregnancy. (Don’t worry we were the control group! lol) I have a BA in Psychology and I know the importance of studies like this. It took a couple months of intelligence tests, head measurements, a bunch of long phone interviews, but the pay off was in Target gift cards. So we were there to blow our money on something fun. And of course a need met us there. As I’ve almost come to expect.
(Or was the need always there and I never had eyes for it?)
Ms. D and Baby D had been there in the heat for two hours and Laelia and I were the first people to make eye contact with them. The baby had snot all over her face as she cried for food. I asked the little one for her name and she replied, “hungry.” Her mom recounted the people who had walked by them with shopping carts full of nothing but food, but no one offered even a banana for her very hungry child. And in the time it took me to park and introduce myself I had seen this happen with my own eyes TWICE. Both shoppers avoided eye contact as bags of food almost fell out of their carts on their way to their cars. One woman scowled as she walked past.
They had been in front of another place before coming here but that store had threatened to call the police so they fled. Because you know how to solve the problem of hungry people in your street view? Call the police on them!!! What?!!!!
Their food stamps had run out days early. She was pregnant, she had lost her job, probably because they found out she was pregnant. And she could have afforded food for her family had her man stayed and had she not been laid off. She begged for her job back, begged to not take much leave, begged to stay even with a pay cut. Now she was desperately looking for work. And was forced to ask for help from strangers.
(I’m not saying this because she deserves food more than if she had a drug problem or was a prostitute or any other thing. It’s not about being worthy of food. We feed people, period. All this to say just that she had never had to ask for food before and was humiliated.)
She grabbed just a little bit of healthy food for her and her baby and her other child at home. Just a meal. She didn’t want to take too much from me. She felt guilty. I don’t think she’d ever had to beg for food for her children before in her entire life. Can you imagine being in that position? She kept saying sorry.
So I lied.
I picked Laelia up out of the cart and then leaned over close so Laelia wouldn’t hear (yes, I totally felt guilty for lying) and said, “I’m secretly really really rich.” Then I pushed the cart in her direction, “Just fill up the whole cart. Anything you need.” And I winked at her.
“Really?!!” She grinned unbelieving.
Now she wasn’t taking advantage of someone on a budget. Now I was Princess Jasmine when she sneaks into the market place incognito. (Oh these holes in my shorts? Totally my middle class costume for going among my subjects.) So we split up, Laelia and I going for coffee and bananas, Ms. D going for more food, enough to feed them for a week. We met up in some middle aisles at one point and I encouraged her by motioning to her cart wildly, “Bigger! More! Higher!” She grinned and went back down aisles she’d already been through. She added shampoo and soap and towels. A broom, a mop, cleaning supplies, brushes, a dish scrubber. Paper towels and toilet paper. Then I noticed all her food was healthy. It was all healthy. (What?) So I started throwing different chocolate bars in her cart while she laughed at me. Hey I was pregnant once. We used her cardboard “we’re hungry” sign to wrap up a giant rack of ribs. Then onions and apples and cheese and meat and sauces and veggies and bread and milk and pasta and cans of this and these and that.
It took 20 minutes to scan and bag it all. The cashier was clipping coupons for us and giving us discounts I never would have thought to ask for. The assistant manager came to help load up the cart that this woman would be pushing back to her shared apartment. (The employees were having just as much fun as me.) My Red Card saved us over $30. The gift cards were completely spent. My grocery budget gone. Instead of the usual dread at being moderately out of budget, all I wanted was to high five everyone like, “Yeah we did it! We spent all the monies!”
Ms. D and I said our good-byes and I watched this woman with a baby on her hip push a cart bigger and fuller than every single one of those carts of food driven by people who had walked past them all day. Ms. D was queen of them. Queen of the carts. And later as I was stuck at a light down the road I caught another glimpse of her making her way down the street, happy and unburdened. She couldn’t see me so I knew that look was not for my benefit, it was just pure joy. She looked… lighter. Despite the burden of the sheer weight of it all in front of her–the mop and broom sticking straight up on the side like royal scepters bouncing slightly in the wind.
I came home and hubby was there for lunch. He saw the inconsistency between three small bags (hey, I still got the coffee!) and the receipt I carried that was longer than my whole arm. All he said was, “I’ve gotta hear the story.”
And I was all, “I totally was a rich person today. A billionaire probably.”