*published in the Columbia County News-Times (October 14, 2015)
"Please, Miss, can we have some money for food?"
I had just come out of Hobby Lobby and was walking to my car when I was approached by a little girl pushing a battered umbrella stroller. With her was an elderly woman carrying a tiny infant and another younger woman; they all looked tired, poor and unkempt.
"Where do you want to eat?" I asked.
"Anywhere," said the girl.
I was hungry, too. It was almost 1:30 and I was in a hurry to get home. I even knew exactly what I was going to have for lunch: homemade bread, tomatoes, cheese, and a cold glass of water with a slice of lemon. Not only did I have the luxury of having fresh, healthy food available, but I had the luxury of choice. All I had to do was get in my car and in fifteen minutes I would be home. There were no worries on my part – it was all there waiting for me.
But this little girl was worried enough to ask a stranger for help.
Food. Water. Shelter. Safety. Such basics in life, and yet there are many people locally who don't have these things. As we live and work in our nice city, driving home at the end of the day to relax in our homes or enjoy dinner on the back deck, it is tempting to ignore the man on the side of I-20 with a Will Work for Food sign, or a bag lady pushing a shopping cart filled with junk, or a hungry girl in a parking lot because, after all, we aren't in Africa, Indonesia, Haiti, Calcutta, or Syria.
To further communicate matters, life is messy. In our ongoing quest to find the perfect job, have the perfect marriage, raise perfect children, and develop perfect bodies we do not like to be reminded that, in fact, we are living in an imperfect world. We don't want to be in the position to need help, or to complicate our lives by becoming involved, or to face moral decisions of what is the right thing to do.
Because we aren't faced with situations like these on a daily basis, it is easy to become suspicious, fearful, and even judgmental. It’s easy to place blame at the feet of those needing help. And it’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone is so much more than what we see; that beneath the dirt, grime, hunger, mental illness, and poverty is a person with a story.
I didn't know that little girl's story; I didn’t know her name, her age, or where she went to school. All I knew was that she was hungry enough to ask a stranger for food. And so I gave them what they needed.
Was I conned?
Maybe I was but, then again, maybe I wasn't. The fact is I don’t know.
But in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? I had something that maybe they needed, and maybe was good enough for me.
|Columbia County News-Times (October, 14, 2015)|