Tuesday, February 19, 2008

neighborly relations

It's early morning at the far side of the park and I see the signs that homelessness is somewhere close. The toiletry bottles stashed under a table, the multiple hotel sized ones, we give those out nightly and that blanket looks familiar too. M and I are on our way to meet some friends.

What's that stuff, she asks and I tell her it's someone's close by. Where, she asks. I don't know, I reply, but as I answer he rounds the corner. Behind the dugout and under the bleachers, I see them sleeping there sometimes but usually not in February.

He sees us nearby, not a threat to his stuff but perhaps closer than necessary. He walks over and has what M would most definitely call a mean face. She wraps her arms around my legs and hides behind them. Out of my element I am sometimes thrown, and on a still not sunny morning in the park with my kid I am thrown a little more.

I think I recognize him, but years of huddled bearded burly haggard tired dirty men can sometimes blur. It's not something I'm proud of because it seems like each face should be carved into my memory. I grab her hand thinking we'll keep going, this happenstance run in doesn't have to be a thing. I've seen her before, he says, pointing at M. Ah, then. Introductions are being made. Here or over at the shelter? I ask because I don't know. Over there. She never sits still does she. More of a statement than a question and to be honest I agree.

That'd be us, I reply. Were you over there last night? Yep, and I slept for shit so left early to try and sleep out here. And then he glances down at her again. Sorry.

If that's the worst thing she hears today then I'll be doing pretty good, I reply and he smiles a half smile, we are still a bit close to his stuff and I see him looking at it and her and probably wondering if she's going to not sit still all over it so I keep holding her hand. I have an extra muffin if she wants it he says. It will never cease to amaze me how many homeless men and women who have almost nothing offer to share what little they do. M is always offered things at work, trinkets and food and sweets and it always touches me. She just ate, but thank you.

Alright then, maybe I'll see you around. And he turns his back and we say goodbye and walk on through the green grass and the grey clouds and the just waking up sounds towards our friends at the other side of the park, the side brimming with kids and snacks and laughter and sand.

34 comments:

Bungi said...

True. This is one of the things i have learned too. Giving doesn't necessarily depend on how much you have but on how willing a heart you have...

Thanks for sharing this story.

Julie Pippert said...

It is amazing to me---like in that beautiful spirit way---how sometimes the people who know the greatest hardship will be the kindest to children, as if trying to offer any token or shield from hardship.

Does that make sense?

Moving story.

mitzh said...

So touching. Isn't a shame that the most kindest of soul can be found in people who doesn't have enough. While some people who seems to be have the world on the palm of their hand refuse to even offer a smile.

Gwen said...

What Bungi said. And Mitzh.

Angela said...

What a truly positive encounter for you and Miss M. It was such a lovely gesture to offer your daughter his muffin, your insight and experiences are truly enlightening. Thank you.

Oh, The Joys said...

Mean face can be a cover, no?

Suz said...

I love the education that you're giving M. These folks, too, are neighbors.

Beck said...

Beautifully written.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

It's nice to hear that people are good, no matter what the situation. It's hard to remember sometimes.

Blog Antagonist said...

You know what? Her life will be so rich for having known these people. I worry about my own children sometimes. All they know is privilege. M will always have the gift of perpective.

His offering to share touches me deeply. It proves that money doesn't beget integrity or humanity.

Amy Y said...

It amazes me too, to hear about how giving they are. He has to have seen a lot ~ have been hurt, been told "no, I don't have any food for you", have been ignored. Yet he still finds it in his heart to rise above that.
We could all learn from him...

Defiantmuse said...

M is so lucky to have you as her mother.

Sober Briquette said...

I think Julie hit on something - the desire to preserve the innocent, especially when you know from experience how ephemeral it is.

painted maypole said...

it is a gift that you give to M, all these encounters, even the awkward ones, as you teach her about the world in small and kindly doses, and a gift she gives right back, to the homeless whom parents often teach their children to ignore and even fear

Family Adventure said...

Achingly beautifully written, Jen.

Heidi

Janet said...

The generosity of those who have so little to give should be a reminder to us all.

flutter said...

the grace you share with them, is the grace they share in return.
And it is beautiful.

Lawyer Mama said...

M is going to learn so much from you and your interactions with the world. She's a lucky girl.

Eileen said...

When I think of that song, I think it was Bette Midler, "Human kindness, overflowing......" I think of you and this post. So beautiful, so moving and I am so thankful for people like you who can see the person inside. What a gift you are giving M.

XOXOX

Wayfarer Scientista said...

you write these experiences so beautifully. Thanks.

mamatulip said...

The fact that he offered her a muffin brought tears to my eyes.

furiousBall said...

that's great. good job mom!

Kyla said...

This made my eyes well up. It was the beauty of the offer, I think. Someone with so little offering what is to them so much.

carrie said...

Thank you for sharing another beautifully written account of a not so ordinary encounter, that ended all good.

Example, that's all we can be/do for our kids. And in your case, it's working. :)

heather said...

I admire how you handle yourself and M in these situations - like not getting worked up if she hears a swear word. What you are teaching her - compassion, caring, grace - is giving her such a gift. BTW, I tagged you for a meme of your favorite posts.

deb said...

It's a sad comment that someone who has so little, is so much more generous than those of us who have so much. I think I have work to do.

Magpie said...

such generosity of spirit.

Susanne said...

Beautiful story.

The Chick said...

I'm always so grateful for what you share here. So many of us need regular reminding of what's out there. Now that I don't practice social work, I feel like I'm not as aware as I should be anymore. Thank you.

QT said...

I loved this story. It is little moments like these in a day, no more than a few moments, that stick with us sometimes. Thank you for taking the time to share it.

Lisa b said...

It amazes me too how those with so little are the first to offer to share. I've seen the same many times.

Have I ever mentioned how many of the men from the church shelter showed up- well were hanging out at the church anyway- when I got married and joined in the receiving line.
It was quite a hoot seeing my boss who lives in the 'burbs negotiate that scene!

ewe are here said...

The generosity of spirit of those who have very little is astounding.

crazymumma said...

I needed another reason to have a wee cry tonight hon. Its cathartic I find.

ms chica said...

Giving from the heart is underrated.