The Boys: December 2008 Archives

A Christmas parable of sorts

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This morning Chris told me about a woman he passed on his way inside city hall yesterday. The woman was sitting on the steps wearing a pair of sweatpants and a tiny, inadequate coat. She asked him for some money.

"Sorry, I don't have any," he replied, before hurrying in for a meeting.

The image of this woman in the cold bothered him to the point of distraction throughout the entire meeting, but what bothered him even more, he said, was his dismissive reaction. Chris isn't a rich man, but he pulled what little he had out of his pocket and had it ready to hand to her as he left the building, but she was gone.

This has weighed on his heart heavily and he feels ashamed. Every single one of us has been that woman - maybe not in severity, maybe in a different form, maybe with a different problem, but each of us has been in a position where we have needed something from another. I know we have. We all have instances similar to this: where we see a person in need but yet we wonder if the need is real or if they're hustlers.

No matter our lot, we can always give to need but yet if we give to the hustler we feel as though we're essentially being robbed and we have less resources for those with true need and even less for our own. So we've all developed a practice wherein we try to quickly assess a person's needs. Do their pants look too new? Are their shoes too shiny? Because if they are then they surely must not be in need and, you know, need is an arbitrary definition that changes depending upon circumstance. You're behind a woman in line at the grocery store who's dressed in nice clothes and paying with food stamps; is she a hustler? Maybe. Or maybe she's too embarrassed or too proud to dress down to the expectations of need.
I've been in Chris's position many times and many times I've walked on by without saying a word. One day we were in the McDonald's drive-thru line and a man tapped on my window. He said he needed gas money as he'd run out. Could I help him? Two little pairs of eyes watched from booster seats behind me. I needed to choose my next move carefully. I'd just spent the afternoon at the grocery store poring over my list, making sure I had the necessary coupons and bought inexpensive and sale items.

He may well have been hustling me. He may have been lying about why he needed money. I reached down into my purse, opened my wallet, and handed him the only note I had, a five dollar bill. He thanked me profusely, looked straight down the barrels of my eyes and said "God bless you for this. I mean it." And then he walked away.

I didn't give him money because I wanted to buy a blessing from God. I didn't do it because I thought it was another test of faith that I had to ace. I did it because who on earth am I to judge this man? Me, a person who once had to leave her grocery cart at the store because my card was declined. Me, a child who had to borrow notebook paper growing up because I was too poor to buy any. I've been on the other end of this situation and I craved anyone, anything that would give me the dignity to bear it.

I don't want to come off as preachy by any means, but while everyone is out celebrating the birth of Christ, please remember what exactly that birth meant. Many years ago someone did pass by us when we were in need. He didn't pause to critically assess whether or not we were worth saving, worth helping, He just did it anyway.

Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for an equally wonderful New Year. I'll pop in sporadically with a photo or two before resuming regular posting after January 1st.

Maybe there is a Santa Claus

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Chris and I screwed up big time the other day.

One of Liam's front teeth fell out, leaving him with a gap-toothed smile that melts my heart and that much more room in his mouth for backsass. The tooth was loose for forever and Liam refused to let us pull it out lest we take his head off in the process. One morning while getting out of the shower I heard Liam yelling from downstairs, something about oh gawd help him, Daddy is trying to rip his tooth out of his head. Liam has mastered the thespian discipline of drama at the tender age of eight years, so I wasn't concerned.

I love his toothless grin

"If you'd just stand still it'll be out in a second!" Chris hollered back.

Later Liam showed me his tooth and we stored it carefully in a snack-sized Ziploc bag and wondered aloud about how much money the tooth fairy would bring him.

A couple of days later while on the phone with his grandmother, Liam said that the tooth fairy was a bunch of crap because she didn't leave him anything and his tooth was still under his pillow.

Parents = FAIL.

"I thought you got it," Chris whispered.

"No, I thought you did."

While Liam was on the phone I darted into the boys' room and shoved a dollar underneath his pillow and snatched his tooth. Which reminds me: I will never forget the day I found a bagful of my baby teeth while searching for a belt to borrow in my mom's dresser. I thought that she maybe had taken up voodoo before I realized what it was. It simeltaneously touched me that she saved them and bummed me out because I had always wondered what exactly happened to my baby teeth and seeing them there in a bag in her dresser drawer caused any remaining fairy dust to dissipate. I was like, 14, too, which makes it even more pathetic.

Liam caught on to us and told Chris that he knows he just shoved a dollar underneath his pillow. The tone in which he said it, the sigh he gave at the end, really struck me. I've written before how I detest the Easter Bunny, Santa, all of that make-believe junk because it seems like such a distraction from the real reasons they exist, but when I heard the snideness in Liam's voice I realized right then that I don't want to raise a cynic like myself. If I can give him even a temporary suspense of reality, a tiny big of magic in his youth, then perhaps that's something.

So I swooped in and told one of the biggest lies in my life about how oh yes, the tooth fairy is real, and how much money did you get? A dollar? I was ripped off; the most I ever got was maybe fifty cents. Chris chimed in and agreed without missing a beat while throwing me an sideways incredulous glance. And Liam's eyes grew wider and he began to brag slightly about how his tooth brought in more than either of his parents had ever received. He folded the dollar into his bulldog wallet and wiggled another loose tooth in his mouth.

"Can't wait to see how much I get for this one," he exclaimed. "It's a big one!"

His wide-eyed wonder was restored and I have to admit, it's kind of catching.

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