What you’re about to read will take you in a direction different than you expected to go:
He sees her as we circle the parking lot a second time, an aimless, wandering circle, a time-killing circle while we wait for their mother to finish a bit of shopping. I have already seen the woman — a girl, really, with tangled dark hair and downturned gaze. She sits on a little concrete median between the entering and exiting traffic, and she holds a cardboard sign asking for money. Not even money, just anything. “Anything helps,” her sign says.
I have already seen her, and so, having nothing better to do, I am engaged in a lukewarm internal debate. Should I give her money? What will she do with the money? Should I drive across the street and get her McDonald’s? Don’t poor people eat badly enough as it is? What about teriyaki chicken from a nearby Japanese place? But will she turn her nose up at that? Will the drivers behind me hit their horns when I stop to give her the money or cheeseburger or chicken with rice? Will people look askance at a man stopping to talk to a young woman on the side of the road? There’s so much to be calculated, you see, in the doing of small good.
Then Caleb sees her. “Dad,” he says, “there’s a woman in the road holding a sign. What does it say?”
“She’s asking for money,” I tell him. We talk about the reasons why a person might be so poor that they take to begging in traffic. They mostly come down to bad choices and illnesses of the heart and mind.
“We should give her some money,” he says.
I am proud of my son and I want to be like him and I am afraid one day he will be like me, all of these thoughts in me at once, and so what I say is that I love him.
If you only read what I have excerpted above, you are cheating yourself. You really should read the full story over at Sand in the Gears.
Then clean out your gearbox.
And a joyous Christmas to you as well.
Update: Avoiding Eye Contact