Note: This post is not about food.
I recently read a post by my friend Jason, a blogger at Daddyinastrangeland and a good friend from college, about his encounter with a man in need of assistance. The man was homeless and trying to round-up enough money to pay for a motel room for him and his two daughters. He approached Jason for monetary assistance in exchange for doing any odd jobs. Thinking of his own two daughters, Jason not only listened to the man, but gave him money and some food. The encounter reminded Jason of all the good things in life that so many of us take for granted–family, friends, financial stability. I can relate to Jason’s feelings and can understand the effect the encounter had on him. But I also find myself relating to the man and his family.
I don’t have very strong memories of my early childhood, just some vague scenes and feelings. During Thanksgiving and Christmas I remember visiting white families whose members I didn’t recognize. There was a great mansion (complete with hidden staircase) that we briefly lived in for a few months, using only the kitchen and two rooms off of it because the owner had passed away in an upstairs bedroom and my mother was convinced the house was haunted. And there was a family in Bellevue whose floral wallpaper was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. As a single parent with limited resources in a new country (Seattle to be precise), my mother had to rely on the assistance and charity of others as she struggled to make a better life. Though I don’t remember much, I can imagine that there were times when she wasn’t so sure this new life was any better, at least not yet. I can imagine that she was thankful for the kindness of strangers, church volunteers or neighbors willing to drive her to a doctor’s appointment or invite us to their homes for holiday meals or give hand-me-downs to her children. But there must also have been solace in knowing that she wasn’t entirely alone.
I never stayed in touch with any of those people (or the countless others whom I don’t remember), part of me wishes that I had. I’d want them to know that their small action, their willingness to help did make a difference. Because of them, my mother was able to keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and ultimately raise two children and send them both to college. On the other hand, perhaps I’ve gotten this all wrong. Perhaps they didn’t do it to make themselves feel good. Maybe they don’t need the thirty-year update to validate their good deed. But I’d like to thank them all the same, if not for contributing to any of my successes, then at least for helping to ease my mother’s burden for just a little while.
Too often I see men and women seeking help and hesitate not knowing whether they are trying to con me. Sometimes I give them a dollar or two, but most of the time I do nothing. And I admit, doing nothing is easier when I don’t think about their stories, their families, their children. Next time, I’ll think of my mother. Thanks, Jas.