You may recall my previous entry about Mother’s Market (July 23, 2006).
Everytime I come to this place I have some kind of learning experience.
I had to stock the cupboards again this weekend, so I popped in to get some goodies.
On my way in, I noticed a woman in a babushka (kerchief-like head covering) with a baby at her breast. She was holding a sign which I confess I didn’t bother to read because clearly this woman needed some aid. For some reason I was drawn to this woman, I simply could not turn around and walk away. I approached her and noticed she had several gold colored teeth (in her front teeth) which clued me in to the fact that she was probably from another country (how many Americans do you know with gold front teeth, except maybe in some regions where it’s done for embellishment?). I tried to speak with her, but the woman did not speak English; she did know the words for “Enfamil” (a brand of baby formula) and “food”. She did not speak Spanish, either, I believe she was Arabic. I managed to communicate with her that I would be right back.
I purchased things I thought a person in her situation could eat, like bananas, pre-peeled baby carrots, nuts, a yogurt drink, some bottled water (the store doesn’t carry baby formula). I did the best I could, paid and brought the bag of food out to her. She thanked me, but then gestured for some hot food from the deli. Why didn’t I think of that????? Back in I went and got some hot meat and vegetable casserole and some nutted rice, a fork and some napkins. She was pleased to get these things and thanked me again.
I went about my own shopping, grateful that I had means to purchase the things I needed. But at the same time, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that maybe I had been used. After all, the baby had clean clothes on. The woman looked groomed. She had a fairly nice stroller for the baby. Had I been conned?
Then I thought to myself: trust intuition. Something had compelled me to help this lady. I couldn’t not help her.
Besides, isn’t every human being entitled to be clean and groomed? Why should a poor person walk around dirty if they have a way to clean up? Why should they masquerade a poverty stereotype for my benefit so I’ll help?
And then, of course, the kicker. Why would anyone with a baby choose to stand outside of a supermarket on a hot day begging for food (she didn’t ask for money) if she didn’t have to?
The lesson is not that giving should make me feel good (even though good deeds can do that). The lesson is that it should make someone else feel better.
And besides, if she did con me (and in retrospect I don’t think she did), it does not diminish me in any way to help someone else.