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Friday, January 9, 2009

Stranded Soul

On my way home from picking up CR and her two neighbor friends from school today, I stared out into the Friday afternoon Los Angeles hazy sunshine thinking about everything and nothing all at the same time. As I exited my new-used mini-van off the Santa Monica Freeway, the light at the end of the freeway ramp turned red just as I approached delaying my arrival home for a few more minutes.

I noticed them standing there but I didn't pay any attention. Actually, I made a point not to pay any attention. I have seen them for many years on many street corners, at the end of many freeway ramps, in many parks around this city I have grown to love, at gas stations, and yes, even walking down our street rummaging through our trash cans on garbage days.

My eyes connected for a split second with the man of the duo. He was the one holding the sign as his female counterpart paced the road looking for sympathetic passersby. When it comes to the people of the street, whatever their story, over the years my sympathy has morphed to skepticism. I've seen too many, heard too much, dug into my purse too many times, been swung at by a crazed man or two, and well, I've become a mom. My awareness has shifted - my world has turned - my kids are to be protected.

I was content to sit through the uncomfortable moment of the couple in need staring at me through my closed window and wait for the green light to save me. Until, from the back seat of the van, CR calls out, "Mama, what does the sign say?"

Forced to bridge the space between me and the duo, I turned to really look at the cardboard sign he was holding.

"It says, 'Stranded. Need gas and car repairs. Please help."

"What does 'stranded' mean Mama?"

"It means, they're stuck. In a bad spot. Their car doesn't work. They need help. They need money."

The skeptic in me guessed the stranded story was just a guise. A way to sucker in the faithful few so they could buy some booze or some weed or in the best scenario, a meal. Without thinking much, I asked, "Should I give them some money?"

And with that question, I turned around and was taken aback by the three innocent faces staring back at me. Dressed in their Catholic school plaid uniforms, they nodded emphatically and in their trio of voices they said "Yes! Of course! Yes!"

I reached over to my purse, grabbed out a dollar, rolled down the window and handed it to the stranded man who accepted it with thanks. I watched him as shoved it into his back pocket and took his place back on the curb.

I turned back to look at CR and with an open-mouthed smile of pure joy, she clapped and said, "Yea!!"

And with that smile, my stranded soul stuck in skepticism was renewed with sympathy.


  1. Oh, that's so hard. Dallas actually just passed an ordinance against pan handling.

    The cops write them tickets.

    I shake my head at the waste of paper.

    Maybe, just maybe, that couple was in real trouble. You made a difference, at least in your children's eyes. They will remember that act of kindness.

  2. I agree with Em up there. YOU will be blessed for giving, no matter what the "receiver" does. And you are a good mama for letting your kids be a part of it.

  3. Wow...What a GREAT story, and what a neat experience for your kids...GREAT unjaded example you set.

  4. I am so nieve....well that is what people think anyway. I guess when I see people like that I honestly believe they need help. Maybe somewhere in them I hope they can see the kindness in others, and repay the favor some day...I don't know really if that happens, but I like to think so. :D maybe just maybe they were "stranded"...

  5. I don't believe it is up to me to judge whether or not someone is "telling the truth" when they are asking for money. I almost always give them something. If only one person uses it for what they need and nine others waste it on drugs/alcohol, gambling or whatever, so be it. At least I helped one person. My kids have seen me in action and do get upset at the times I have kept on walking.

  6. I love your story. It made my day.

  7. Aren't children wonderful? A dollar out of your pocket may (or may not) help that person, but what a hero you become in your own child's eyes.

  8. What a beautiful reminder of the pure GIFT that children are to us. They don't look at situations with the jadedness and skepticism of adults. They live in the here and now...those people needed your help and you gave it to them. Ah, so simple. I agree with Ree, you were a hero in their eyes. You're a great mom, my friend.

  9. awwwwwwwwwwwww - everybody needs a connection now and then

  10. This post made me take a nice hard look at myself. Thanks!

  11. Random acts of kindness...cliched but true. It's more just a random moment of responding as a human, and so many of those we turn away from .... we are drowning in skepticism and it's not our fault, it just is.

    Bless you...

  12. i love you, i love you, i love you.

    You gave Em a lesson today she will never forget. AND, you reminded us about compassion. thank you.

  13. Isn't it hard? You want to be skeptical, but your heart can ache for the people too. It makes me feel good when my kids are excited about those things!

  14. it is a beautifully written story, and you are such a great mommy, with kids that are learning compassion by example.

    i guess maybe i am a cynic at heart. my feelings on this are mixed. i guess i am to be the black sheep of the comments section today.

  15. That is a tough one. Here there are laws against giving money to homeless.
    One evening a group of us mothers with our kids were coming home from Yokohama, there was a elderly Japanese man sleeping on a bench. He has been badly beaten. We gave him money, and food. Sometimes it's just the right thing to do!

  16. that is so sweet. I hope they honestly needed the help and weren't just working the corner. Kids are so innocent ans sweet, It's such a shame when the real world hits.

  17. It is amazing how the moment you give birth it’s like a total metamorphosis. Your views, thoughts, actions, dreams, wishes all change in an instant.

  18. kids.... they have a way of making you look deep into your soul. I have lost a lot of sympathy too... occasionally, though I give in too

  19. I have a little something for you on my blog...

  20. To be honest, I am filled with skepticism. There are just so many stories out there about "bad people with bad intentions."

    I'm glad that you gave your kids the opportunity to continue to see the good in people regardless of what you felt. It is amazing what your kids can teach or re-teach you.

  21. I very jaded as well. When I was living in NYC I believed a guy who said he needed money for his insulin. When I got home and told my boyfriend what happened (the guy's story was a lot longer) he just yelled SUCKA!

    I was so mad. I swore I would never give money to someone in the street again. Have I? Of course, does that make me a SUCKA still?

  22. So sweet... I just love the genuine sincerity and generosity of kids. It's sad but true, it's hard to believe everyone that asks for money though. I'd love to help every last honest one of them, it's just hard to tell and definitely more important to protect the kids. It was great to be a good influence on the kids though, something they'll always remember I'm sure!


  23. Good for you. Sometimes you have to follow your gut and let fate take its path.

    The homeless issue is big here in Vegas. No easy answers, though. So sad.

  24. You did the right thing for sure. Even if your skepticism is right, and that couple used your money for something else - the lesson you taught your kids is more important.

    Love your blog! Keep up the good work.

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