Last night I had a rather upsetting experience and it has led me down a road of self-questioning and, well, self-flagellation. I feel like if I had only taken action one minute sooner I could have made a difference.
I'll explain in a second....(yes I see the irony)
The whole thing reminds me of another situation where my pausing put me into an emotional tailspin. Many years ago I was driving on a rather busy country road. I saw a kitten in a patch of grass in-between the road and a parking lot. My instincts told me to pull over and get it, so it wouldn't get hit by a car, but instead of listening to my instincts I took a moment to debate this idea before turning my car around and going back.
When I got back to the place where I had seen the kitten another woman was getting into her car. I asked her if she had seen it. Her response was "Yes, it's dead. It was hit by a car."
As I drove away I broke into tears. I felt responsible. If I had not debated, and just acted, I might have been able to save the kitten....which is sort of how I feel about last night.
My hus-person and I decided to sneak out, without the kids, and get dessert. We went to a local pie shop. As we sat in the sticky booth with our coffee and desserts a rather ragged women and her ten-ish year old daughter came in and sat behind us.
At first I was annoyed. This woman had an obvious drug problem, she was wearing so much perfume I was eating it, and she was being rather loud; proclaiming how they had been asked to leave the restaurant across the street.
I went back to my conversation, but heard snippets of what the woman was saying to the waitress. She inquired about the "Kids Eat Free" special. The waitress nicely explained that special was from the night before, but tonight's special is a free piece of pie with dinner. The woman started to look at the menu, but soon realized that she didn't have enough money to pay for dinner.
I only caught part of what was said, but ultimately the mom and daughter decided to leave. As they walked down the aisle towards the lobby I clearly heard the little girl apologize to the waitress. And that killed me.
This whole interaction got me thinking about my own financial struggles. Times are tough for my family right now, but I was out, at a restaurant, for dessert, so it can't be that bad right?
Sitting there I looked at my spouse knowing that he was feeling the same thing I was feeling. I wished I could do something. I paused to consider if the restaurant would take my credit card to pre-pay for their food. I paused to wonder if I could catch them before they left and figure something out after the fact. I paused and wondered....
Then it dawned on me that I had $25 in birthday money. I never have cash, but that very day in the mail from my grandmother-in-law I had received $25. I had it ear marked to pay for a bill, but I really wanted to help that woman and her daughter, even if it was only for one night. I pulled it out of my purse and went outside to try and catch them.
Of course when I got outside it was raining, (which in my overly romantic sensibilities was just freakin perfect). I walked around the building, but I couldn't see them. I went through the small parking lot to make sure they weren't sitting in a car, but all the cars were empty.
They were already gone.
I had paused to wonder for too long. My pause to try and think of a solution made the situation disappear. I felt even worse and started to cry.
When I got back to the table I could tell my spouse was a disappointed as I was. The ice cream didn't seem as tasty as it had earlier. I just wanted to go home. As we were leaving I said, "This was a reminder to be grateful." We said a prayer for the little girl and the mother.
As I write this I find that I am still very emotional about it. You never know when a seemingly random event will rock your entire foundation and leave you questioning your effectiveness in the world.
There are so many things I hope for those two people. And, for now, I will hold my own little girl closer and be grateful for what I can do for her.