While stopped at a red light at an intersection, I saw a woman on the concrete slab between the lanes, holding out a cup and asking for money. The woman was disabled, with skin worn from the sun, and covered in torn, raggedy clothes. She could only hobble on her makeshift crutches when a person in a car would reach out an arm with a couple of dollars for her.
I handed the woman a dollar and she whispered "God bless you."
My son asked, "What is she?" This is his catch-all question he uses to figure out his world. It can mean "how old are you?" or "are you a superhero like me?" depending on the situation.
I paused before answering, because I wanted to give him a truthful answer, but one that was appropriate for a two year old. I'm not sure I succeeded. "She is a woman who does not have a family or a place to live. She can't work at a job that pays money like Daddy does, so she asks people to help her by giving her money. So we shared some of our money with her."
Having children has made me think about people differently. I feel the suffering of other human beings on a different level. The woman begging for money is somebody's child, and might be somebody's mother. What happened to her? How'd she get where she is now? Does she really not have family? Also, why are some people part of the "have's" while others are part of the "have-nots"? I know that it goes beyond how hard or motivated a person is, because I see the advantages a child has when his or her parents have resources and invest time and love into the child.
I always come back to the thought that there but by the Grace of God go I.
I was lucky enough to be raised by a loving mother and father and stepfather who cared about my well-being and did the best they could to give me every advantage. Neither I nor someone in my family has suffered a major health problem, leading to major, crippling debt. So far, none of us have lost a job or a house.
I see a person begging on the streets and feel fortunate, and somewhat guilty, that I get to live my life, which is a really, really good life.
While lost in my thoughts, my son had also been doing some thinking.
"Does that person need money, too?" He was pointing to the man in the Mercedes ahead of us.
"No, probably not." I told him, smiling. "Probably not."