Today was as normal as any other..
I made it to the bus on time with roughly 10 minutes to spare. I talked with a few friends until the bus arrived and one by one.. my littles unloaded and came bounding for my car. With one last errand in mind, I knew we would be home with plenty of time to get homework done and head off to a friend's birthday dinner.
As my kids got situated, seat belts fastened.. I put my beautifully, dirty, white Toyota Highlander into drive and headed off for our destination. It just so happened to be Aubrey's turn in the front seat. (This would be my beautiful, incredibly intelligent, fun loving, caring, giving, easy going, people pleasing, oldest of four.. child... Bonus Child for those of you keeping track.) I turned to her and asked how her day went, as I do with each and every one of them as we progress on our drive. She started telling me about a class assignment they are working on and how her home room teacher asked each kid to list three things wrong with America. She went on to list things one and two... but her third, left me a little off put and almost, well a lot, sad. Her third answer was that we have "to many homeless people and people who aren't supposed to be "here", taking the jobs." .. It was as though she were reading a script. This couldn't be the same child I described above, could it?
I let her finish, she told me about the book they are reading and then she trailed off. Before I could move on to the next child and ask about their day, I had to spit out what was rattling around in my brain as I listened to my twelve year old talk.
I looked over at her as we stopped at a red light and I asked, "What makes you think that every homeless person is lazy? Why would you assume someone has come in and taken their job?" and she looked back at me, blankly, and replied, "I don't know." I said, "Where have you heard something like that? I find it hard to believe this is a conclusion you have come to on your own?" and she said, "I don't know, I've heard stories."
UGHHHHHH... I took my Mommy moment, not to be mad.. but to serve my child I healthy helping of humble pie.
I explained to her that when I was in the 5th grade, circumstances had landed my Mom and Me in a homeless shelter, right here in Victorville. All our belongings, packed into the Ford Taurus she was doing everything in her power to make the payments on.. and us sleeping in a large, over crowded room with what felt like hundreds of other women and children. (Im sure it was only 20.. but it felt like way more.) My grandpa had just been laid off, as would happen many times later and no one could afford to take us in, trust my mom to be in their home.. and I was stupidly committed to staying by my Mom's side and refused to stay anywhere else.
I explained that most people who are homeless, aren't lazy, hustlers that you see in front of fast food establishments.. I explained PTSD and mental illnesses, without boring her to death. I asked her how she expected these "lazy" people to get jobs if they don't have an address to put on an application or a phone number they can be reached at?
She did not have an answer.. to which I continued that, at any moment.. If I were in a car accident or injured my arm or leg and was unable to work.. our house hold would no longer be able to function as is does. I explained that it takes both her father and me to contribute to this house hold. If such thing were to happen to me, would I become lazy in her eyes?
After a few quiet moments, I explained that I don't share stories often about my child hood, because I don't want my children to know a life like the one I grew up in. I work so hard so that they can have the life they do.. not so that they can turn their nose up at people who have less then..
I realized, my lack of sharing, has created the exact opposite in my child then that of what I would like to see in her heart.
I hope today she took something away from our discussion.. and we never did discuss the "people who come in and take the jobs".. I don't exactly know what she meant by that.
I try my best to show my children that we give with an open heart and we give what we can when we can. They have seen me hand someone begging money, they have witnessed me pay for someone else groceries, they have helped me make dinners for other families in need. We have gone through our clothes countless times and given them to others, passed on our gently used hand me downs. I have always hoped these would be lessons in listening to your heart and doing something when your heart and brain collide with those ideas.
I hope that today as we all ate that humble pie, my children will think a little more before they judge.. and even more so before they speak.
I know that my children will only learn these lessons when taught and they are so blessed to have SO many people to catch them if things were to ever spiral downward, however, I don't want them to think that it's ok to pass judgment on someone else's story because at the end of the day, you don't know the burdens they carry or why they are who they are.