This story is not mine. But I hope that my son make these same sort of revelations at some point in his life. I have a dear friend who has a three year old. She’s an incredibly powerful and incredible woman. She brings immigrants into her home for holidays because they don’t have family here. We often talk about the fact that we community parent our kids. I’ve left Chewy with her a number of times and honestly, aside from my own family (well, most of my own family), I wouldn’t trust anyone with Chewy like I trust her.
One of the things that she does is collect recyclables for a local homeless woman. For the person of this story, I’m going to call her Virginia. That’s not actually her name. So the other day Virginia was collecting some bottles from my friend’s yard when her son wandered through. Virginia, being homeless, is not exactly well kept and on this particular day, she was using a garbage bag as a poncho. Her little boy walked up to Virginia and very calmly, very slowly stated the following;
“Virginia, you…are not…garbage.”
Now you can suggest that her son was simply making a childish comment based on the fact that we put garbage in garbage bags and Virginia was wearing a garbage bag. I prefer to believe that he was actually commenting on something a little more profound.
We treat other humans TERRIBLY. Whether it’s someone in the service industry or a stranger or even a neighbor. We dispose of friendships and people so quickly that they might as well be Virginia in her garbage bag.
When I take my son to the grocery store, I make a point of ensuring that he thanks our cashier. When we take books out of the library, I ensure that he thanks the clerk. When his grandfather picks him up from school or drops him off after a visit, he always says thank you. My son says, “Daddy, I love you so much” so many times I day that I lose count. It’s incredible.
I think that we’re all very intent as parents on making sure our kids are smart and strong. We want them to be able to count and add and multiply and read and kick a soccer ball and catch a football and skate and swim. But do we teach them about charity, poverty, humanity? Probably not often enough. None of us are perfect. I’m certainly not. I make plenty of mistakes parenting. But I’m working hard to make sure that my son and daughter, like my friend’s son, understand that Virginia…is not…garbage.