Kids are observant creatures. They notice everything and still have the propensity to look dumb when I ask them a direct question. (Me: Did you make your bed? Kid: Uh... My what?) However, I have to say that even though I get used to the "I dunno..." answer for almost every question I ask, I am continually surprised when they ask me questions about my conduct, my behavior and the behavior of other folks around them. It makes me wonder about what they notice and say nothing about. **shivers**
A few weeks back my kids and I were witnesses to a horrific auto accident that backed up traffic for about a mile. While we waited in the middle of it, the only lane of traffic that was moving was the left turn lane. I put on my blinker and made a move to pull over. Nobody was moving and the light was red, so it wasn't as if I was muscling my way in. I was just trying to clear my big fat truck out of the way for emergency vehicles. The guy behind me was not paying attention. He wasn't going anywhere, so I pulled in and made to turn left. His immediate reaction was to swear at me, yell out his window and honk. He kept it up as we navigated through the wreckage and police directing traffic. In fact he tailed me for three miles honking and swearing at the top of his lungs.
I deemed it undignified of a lady to reply in kind.
The following week found me at Costco. It was a busy weekend and everyone wanted to get in, do their shopping and get out again. I was on crutches (dag blast my busted foot!!) and right there at the entrance in the midst of twenty people and the door greeter, I got the crutches kicked out from under me. Literally. I went flying. Not only did I bang myself up pretty good, I felt like a complete idiot. However, idiot got upgraded to mortified when not one person stopped to help me up. Not even the door greeter took five seconds to help. In fact he asked me to hurry up because I was clogging the doorway.
I refused to cry. I have my limits on propriety.
My sons perform with a martial arts group. They love it and it is fun to attend these demo's to watch them. They got to perform the opening show for our local NBA team. They rocked it!! However, in the hubbub afterward, we lost both sons in the crowds for the span of thirty minutes. When in an enormous building built to hold thousands of people –99% of which are folks I don't know– I was in a bit of a panic to find them. I questioned parents and their friends. I stopped a security guard to plead for help. He shook me off, asked me to leave because I was in a restricted area. I asked him again as I left to help me. The only answer I got was... "Lady, I really don't want to look for your kids."
When I think of a snappy response, I'll let you know. I'm still speechless. Oh, and I found my boys. They tracked down a parent and called me. Smart boys.
As we waited for dad to get the car after the basketball game, a homeless man rambled through the crowd asking for spare change. He was not treated very kindly. In fact, he got pushed and sworn at. Right in front of me and my boys, a woman and he got in a heated yelling match where the F-word was tossed around like free candy. He stormed off and there was a tense silence where I was sure I wasn't the only person feeling uncomfortable.
And thus began the sudden and surprisingly observant musings of my sons. My elder son turned to me and said simply, "People are not very charitable here."
For a full minute I didn't have a reply. Frankly speaking, I didn't feel very charitable myself. I found my inner thoughts turning to the rude driver and the Costco incident and the security guard who deemed my kids too unimportant to help. Not to mention that I was mortified to realize that I felt justified in not giving my spare change to the homeless man because he was cursing and swearing and rudeness was hardly rewardable.
I. Am. Ashamed.
Younger son countered his brother's comment with, "Not everyone is rude. Right, mom?"
I didn't have much of an answer. Both boys looked to me, faces hopeful. How could I tell them that after all my experiences with folks in the past few weeks that even my usual good humor was tested to the limits?
I got a tap on my shoulder. Two men with hiking packs said that they were on their way home and were a quarter shy of a bus fare. They were scruffy and dirty and definitely worse for wear, but all they needed was twenty-five cents.
I dug down in the dark recesses of my bag where spare change goes to die and rooted out a quarter. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Only a quarter? Are you sure you don't need more?" It seemed like a paltry amount. You can't buy much with a quarter these days. They assured me that was all they needed and thanked me.
It was a quarter, but crisis was averted. Older son commented under his breath with, "We should have given them more." And younger son replied, "At least twenty bucks. They were nice."
Did my sons learn the lesson in charity? No...
I learned the lesson.
Although my outward actions showed tolerance and charity, my heart was growing cold. In a nutshell, people suck, but I don't have to. It's a conscious choice.
After all, a change of heart is as easy as one quarter.