Yesterday W and I decided to drive into the city to pick up Lolly from an evening meeting. Usually, my mother takes the train home and when she has this meeting twice a month she gets in really late. W and I drove into Philly, found a parking spot, and then sat in the car, hanging out, until the meeting was over. While we were sitting in the car W noticed a woman sitting on the sidewalk.
“What’s wrong with that person?”, he asked. I looked over and saw a woman, about my age, sitting on a square of cardboard. She had a plastic cup in front of her and she was holding a sign I couldn’t read.
I told W, “I don’t know, but she looks like she is asking for help.”
W started to get really upset that no one was stopping to talk to or help the woman and he asked if he could go see if she was ok. Instinctively I reached for my wallet to look for some money he could offer the woman, and then I felt like an idiot when I saw my empty billfold. It’s been a lean month for us and I haven’t had actual cash on me for a while. I asked W to hold on while I rooted around in my bag for something, anything, that he could offer her. While we had so little we had SO MUCH MORE than she did.
Then my hands felt the firm corners of a couple of vouchers I had been given a few weeks ago. The vouchers were for free breakfast any time of the day at a popular fast food place. I handed them to W and said he could offer these to the woman and to apologize that we didn’t have anything else.
He got out of the car and walked down the busy sidewalk. I watched him tug up his school shorts and shyly approach. I watched him shake the woman’s hand and knew he was telling her his name and asking her what her name was. He took his time with her, didn’t rush back. As he climbed back into the car I looked at the woman, our eyes connecting, I gave a wave, she gave a smile.
W continued to focus on how many people were ignoring the woman as they walked by. I talked to him about invisible people and how, for many who are homeless or in need of help, this is their reality. Whenever someone would stop to talk to the woman or offer her something he got so excited. “He saw her!!”
We’ve never been a family who walks by someone else. We’ve tried to put kindness out into the world and towards every person we meet. It’s a powerful and profound moment when you realize your kid is paying attention.