Friday, September 28, 2007

Poor and perfect

When we were at Baskin Robbins a few weeks ago, I didn't pay much attention to who else was there. I did remember the family with the beautiful children who reminded me of my friend, but no one else really stuck out. A couple days after that trip, I was working late and the janitor asked me if Ben had liked his ice cream cone. Well, I had to think fast, because at first I thought maybe I had written about it in a Mama Talk. But no, I hadn't. And then, to my horror, I wondered if this woman had been reading my blog? No, that's too crazy for words. Couldn't be that. So she must have been there. And, bless her heart, she was kind to me when I admitted I hadn't remembered seeing her. She told me where she was sitting and that Ben had walked right up to her kid and said "Ice cream peeese" and thankfully, I remembered that.

Well, I was in here working late again last night and she came by with her daughter in tow. Little girl of maybe 4 or 5, very shy. She smiled at me when I talked to her but hid behind her mom. She was yawning and rubbing her eyes a lot, but she still helped her mom collect garbages. By the looks of how good she was, she's been doing this for awhile. It was all I could do not to start crying then and there. Can you imagine supporting your family on janitor's wages? Being so poor that you can't afford anyone to watch your kid, so you have to bring her along to work with you? It was very late and this girl was very little, but what else was she going to do? And though it may be against child labor laws to have her help, I understand that too. The sooner they're done, the sooner they can get home so said little girl can go to bed. It reminded me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, except that Katie quit the school janitor job and changed to one in her apartment building so that she wouldn't have to have a baby-sitter.

Poverty is so poignant when you put a face to it. Much more so than reading in the paper a percentage of people in our county who live below the poverty line. I don't care about them. They are just numbers to me. But I care about this sweet little girl with long black curly hair and a missing tooth.

For some reason, the fact that her mom took her to Baskin Robbins even though she clearly can't afford it is what is resonating the most with me right now. I'm so glad. She's been working hard, she deserves it.

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