I’ve held this position for the last 3 and a quarter years now and every day seems to bring a whole new set of rules.
I like it. I’m one of those odd people who enjoy a good shake up every now and then.
Yesterday, I was chest deep in a very awkward and potentially damaging situation where I had to either choose what I wanted to do OR choose what was best for my little hazel-eyed, curly, blonde-haired, 3 year old daughter.
I picked up my daughter from school and wanted to treat her to her favorite meal. She usually goes for shrimp and crab but the budget for the day only allowed for shrimp and we pulled into the local Sam’s Seafood and Eatery. As I’m getting The Kid (formerly known as The Tot) out of the car, I hear a man shout from the curb and ask me if I had any money. “Sorry man, I don’t have any cash” is what I shouted back at this tattered homeless man…and then…my mouth opened back up. “Are you hungry?” I asked him.
Of course he answered with yes and I motioned for him to come into the restaurant with us. As he met us inside, I asked him for his order and get it to go. Then I ordered for The Kid and me.
The three of us make it over to a table and sit down. Not much chit chat. Our server brings our meals out at the same time. Ours for here; His to go. He decides to stay and eat dinner with us. At this point in time, I realize that my daughter is in for more than I bargained for…
She sits across the table from him in her little 3 year old frame…wide-eyed and silent. I look at him as he looks at her. No sense in trying to side-step the inevitable. The man, who later became known as Isaac, has a black eye patch that covers his left eye. He has a scar that runs from the top edge of his hairline, through his eyebrow and left eye down to his left cheek. There is another deep scar that runs from his right ear across his face to his lips. His top lip has been smashed too many times and lies much differently than most upper lips. His arms are also covered in numerous marks and scars. Finally, I say to her, “Are you afraid to talk to him because of the eye patch?"
I explain to her that he looks differently than she is used to but that he has 2 arms and 2 legs just like she does and that he is a just a normal person that has had an accident (or 2 or 6).
“Why is he eating with us, Mom?" As I explained that Isaac doesn’t have a home and that he was hungry, I told her that sometimes people need help and that if we can help them, then we try to help them. Isaac nodded his head in agreement and said thank you. The Kid eyeballed him nearly the entire time we ate. And I was fine with that. Isaac tried to carry on a conversation with her but she was content with nodding and didn’t need any other interaction. And I was fine with that.
As we started to wrap up our meal, Isaac pulled out his Gatorade bottle half full of his drug of choice. I asked him if he preferred whiskey or rum. He quickly shoved his bottle back into his bag. “It’s whiskey. I have a drinking problem.” he said. “We all have our problems.” I replied.
**Enter the SHAKE UP**
“Yeah…I know. I tried to share a 40 with this woman earlier and she told me she was bisexual. I don’t like that. I don’t care for those homosexuals. They’re disgusting. Then she said that she was going to go down to that Equality Center and I said that I don’t want to be around those fags. She got mad at me then and I had to get out of there. They can keep all of those faggots over there, I don’t want nothin’ to do with them.” he said.
They can keep all of those faggots over there, I don’t want nothin’ to do with them.
At this point, I look at my daughter and look back at him. I tell him that I understand why that woman got upset with him. I ask the server to bring some boxes so we could box up our leftovers. “It’s time for us to go.” I say to him.
I could feel two versions of myself fighting each other on the inside of me. One was telling me to breathe while the other had firmly planted her feet and slung out a healthy, “THIS FAGGOT JUST FED YOU DINNER”.
I wanted so badly to “teach him a lesson”. To let him know what he’d done…that he walk away from this place knowing how rude and awful he was.
And then I looked back at my daughter. This was her time. She had a brief glimpse of what it’s like to help someone in need. She didn’t need to know the ugly side of it.
I needed to walk away. I scooped up my little baby girl and we left Isaac sitting at the restaurant.
Now I am white knuckled, trying to decipher if I did the right thing or not. She’s really quiet but breaks the silence by asking me if I’m ok. I nodded and smiled big at her, “I’m ok, sweetie”. As I’m getting buckled into my seat, I ask her what she thought about eating dinner with Isaac. Normally my 3 year old likes to give her opinion with gusto. However, after asking her about dinner, she just looked at me through the rear view mirror. “Were you scared?" She just looked at me. “Are you thinking about Isaac?" She just looked at me. Trying to think like a 3 year old, I asked her, “was he a good guy or a bad guy?"
She looked out the window and then back at me. Furrowing her eyebrows and tilting her head sideways, she said, “I think that he is good guy AND a bad guy.”
She already knows that there can be an ugly side.
Not everyone is open hearted. There are people everywhere who misunderstand other people unlike themselves. Some even wish that the other didn't even exist. Gays, Straights, Christians, Muslims, Religious, Non-Religious, War-mongers, Peacemakers, Atheists, Hungry, Homeless, Rich, and Poor.
Since that moment, I have reconciled that it’s not my job to “teach other people lessons” when they offend me. My job is to work at being an amazing mom to my daughter and this particular lesson was for me…to help when I can and walk away when necessary.
For more information about the Equality Center, an amazing resource for the Tulsa area, click here.
For information on a very easy way you can help the homeless in the Tulsa area, click here.