The Day That Rocked My Children's Perception of Life
This afternoon, after picking my daughter up from a birthday party at a local play place, a man called out to us and asked us for $1.75 for something to eat. I offered to grab him something at a nearby store and asked him what he would like. My kids and I grabbed him the ginger ale and sandwich he had asked for along with some bananas and brought him his bag of food. He thanked us, gave me a hug, and with a "God Bless you" we were headed back to the car. As sad as the encounter made me, I was not prepared for what happened next.
Once the car doors closed behind us I was bombarded with question after question. "Does he have a home?" "How is he going to stay dry and warm?" "Is he going to be okay?" "Where is his family?" As a parent you can read all the books you want. You can try with every fibre of your being to understand, to have all the answers, but it is never going to happen until you are in those shoes. I took a deep breath and tried my best to explain. “No he doesn't have a home.” “I am not sure how he will stay warm and dry.” “I don’t know where his family is.” It was heartbreaking to watch my kids eyes go from bright and hopeful to sad and defeated. We drove home in a fog.
Later that afternoon I saw a video on my Facebook feed of kids cooking eggs in a hand dug clay oven of sorts that they built themselves in the side of a bank. No pots, no water and I thought it was neat so I showed the kids. The older two watched it with interest but my 8 year old saw it differently. She watched it with the same concerned look she had in the car on our way home. Once again she had a slew of questions. "Do some kids really have no pots to cook in?" "Do they have water?" "Is that all they are going to eat?" On and on came the questions. All I could do was answer them as honestly as I could and try not to completely overwhelm her.
I sat her in my lap, wrapped my arms around her and started answering her questions one by one. "Yes there are kids in this world who do not have pots to cook in, clean water to drink or enough food to eat." "Yes there are even kids who you go to school with who don't have it either." She looked up at me and said "I wish we could do more." I hugged my little girl tight.
When my husband came home that evening he walked into a sombre scene. The kids were sitting on the couch quietly and you could see their brains working overtime trying to process the day they had had. He looked at me with a "What's going on?" expression and as I explained, the tears rolled down my cheeks. He was as lost as I was. Neither of us was prepared for this. I don't think any parent ever really is.
The reality of life outside our four walls has been more and more present with every day that passes. I'm not sure if I'm handling it right or not. I don't have all the answers they are looking for. Heck, they probably aren't ready for a lot of them. Every single one of us is feeling it tonight, a roller coaster of emotions. As a parent I am sad, grateful, proud and hopeful. Our children are paying attention. They don't like what they are seeing and desire change. What is usually perceived as a lesson in giving and caring was actually a lesson in life's reality for us all.
© 2018 Crystal Monteith