I was headed out this morning to run some quick errands with the kids. Well, what should have been quick was likely going to take forever because it was cold, and we needed big jackets, and strollers and snacks… And so forth. But we set out nonetheless. When we got to the parking lot I chose a spot in between the two stores I needed to go to. That area of the parking lot was the least populated. But it was 10 am and there were people milling about near the entrance of the store so I didn’t think anything of it. Anyways, it’s easier to load and unload my crew when there are not cars on both sides of us.
I started my unloading the same way I always do. There’s a system you know. Stroller first. If you take a child out first they can run away from you. So stroller first. Then I unstrap Mini and wrangle her into her coat. Take her out of the car and strap her in the stroller and hand her the snack I packed. I was wheeling the stroller around the back of the car to get Joey from the other side and I see a man approaching.
Alone. In a hoodie. In an empty parking lot. So I froze. I immediately assumed the worst and my mama bear protection was in full force. He glanced at Juliana and asked if I had any food. And I just stood there frozen. And when I realized what he asked I said “No, no I don’t I’m sorry”. I was so flustered. So caught off guard. And honestly? I was scared. There was no one around for 50 or so feet. I was alone with two kids. Vulnerable. He could have pulled out a gun. Thrown me in the car and drove off. Stole my car. Stole my wallet. But he didn’t. He shrugged his shoulders and walked off to find someone else. I watched him with my heart beating as I grabbed Joey from his seat and buckled him into the stroller. I kept my eye on him the whole time as I grabbed my bag, handed Joey the snack and locked the doors, racing to get inside of the store. I watched as he asked one, then two, then three other people for something to eat. The man was simply hungry.
Juliana piped up at this point and asked me what the man wanted. My mouth didn’t even want to open. “He was hungry” I said. “Why didn’t you give him any food then Mama?” I told her I didn’t have any to give him at that time and we went about our business. But my heart just felt broken. Broken because I had no faith that someone was looking to me for help and not to harm me. Broken because I didn’t help someone who needed it. Broken because there is a man out there whose belly was rumbling and I turned the other way.
I simply froze. I read so much in the news about the bad there is in the world and I assumed the worst from this man. [There was recently a car jacking at a nearby gas station and a man drove off in a woman’s car with her two kids still strapped in their seats!] I was alone with 2 kids. I was caught off guard. I was panicked. I can’t help how I reacted to this man, but I wish it didn’t have to be like that.
I am disappointed in myself. I know my reaction was on par for the situation but I’m still upset with it.
Be the good you wish to see in the world
I remember years ago walking by a homeless person with my father and saying something about how he probably only needed the money to buy drugs or alcohol. Forgive my way of thinking, but I know that story all too well, therefore leaving me a bit cynical. My dad looked at me and explained this:
That man is your test. He tells you he is hungry and that is all you need to know. If you have food or the means to help him, then do so. That is on you.
What that man chooses to do with the money or food after you trusted his word is on him. That is his test.
I think about that all the time. And yet today I failed.
So from now on I’ll be more proactive. I’ll make emergency packs with water and granola bars to keep in the car. Instead of being caught off guard, I will look to help others. I will make a difference in 2016. Even if it’s just for the sake of one persons rumbling belly, I will be the good.
What would you have done?