I see the homeless man
Sombrero on head
Beads around his neck
Boombox in hand
He walks his own path
To his music
Some days he pan handles
Others – he rocks out to the music
Should I pity you?
Or envy you?
Oh, homeless man
Have you hit rock bottom?
Or have you attained Nirvana?
You seem not to care
About what others think
You seem not to care
About how you have to dress
You seem not to worry
About your next meal
You seem not to worry
When the elements rage
Have you broken free from the shackles?
Or have you given up?
Unable to bear their weight
You are unabashedly
living, dressing, behaving
The way you want to
Maybe it is a blessing
Maybe it is a curse
Maybe it is freedom
Maybe it is an illness
Maybe you are in your own cell of sadness
Brought on by this world’s madness
Or maybe you are
In your own cocoon of happiness
Because you walked away from this world’s mess
Oh, homeless man
I salute you
Rather than pity you
Continue your journey
With your sombrero, beads and boombox
I work as a substitute teacher.
When I was checking in at may last sub job, an older employee was writing out a tardy slip for a student. She asked the student, “So is that an ‘i’ or a ‘y’ in the middle?” Then she looked over at me and said, “You know, I used to know how to spell until I had to start writing out these student names.” I smiled and didn’t say anything.
Later at night, I was describing this interaction to my kids and I said that I had felt a little offended by the employee’s comment.
My 13 yr-old who sees no need to mince words asked me, “Do you think she was being racist?” I had earlier explained to my children that the employee and the student were different colors.
My son continued to elaborate. “See, Mom, I think the word racism is overused. Abused. I also think people have become too sensitive.But, in this case, I don’t know. I would like to think the employee was just making a comment. Then again, maybe she was being a little biased. Why can’t humans simply get along?”
I, of course, had to ruminate about this. Maybe my son was right. If I had only heard the comment and not seen the employee or the student, would I have assumed it was offensive? Or would I have just taken it at face value?
How do you set aside your own biases and read a human or a situation as it is? Doesn’t it feel like most times we read too much or too little into something?
I was at the grocery store when a Dad I know walked up to me and asked “Hey, are you doing okay?” I replied, “I am fine. Why? Do I not look okay ?” I asked him. He said, “Your son told my son (they are classmates) that you guys are splitting up. If you need anything, we are here for you.” I was plunged into a sea of emotions ranging from shock to sadness to embarrassment . I mumbled, “Yes, thank you,” and walked away.
A few days later, a mom (that I had said hello to twice) approached me at my son’s school. “I heard about your marriage. If you need anything, we are here for you,” she said. Now this particular morning had been very difficult for me. The fact that I had no job and pretty much no life had hit me very hard that morning when I woke up. So, when she said this to me, I broke down – literally. The nice mom gave me a hug. I couldn’t stop crying. The flood gates had been opened. I nodded my head and walked away.
I sat in my car to gather myself. As I tried to compose myself, I realized that all these people did not make me feel better.
I mean- think about it. Would you reach out to an acquaintance for emotional support?
All it does is remind you of the scrappy, miserable situation you are in.
I am not GOD.
I don’t believe I have the right to tell my children how to behave all the time, how to study, what they should choose for a career.
I have come under a lot of cultural and family pressure to raise my children a certain way – timeouts, take away privileges, insist they get A’s all the time, and only choose academic extracurricular activities.
I am not PERFECT! I never was and never will be. What right do I have then to expect my children to be perfect?
Don’t get me wrong. I do have certain expectations and rules:
1) Don’t lie to me EVER – tell me if you got a bad grade, if you got in trouble or you made a mistake.
2) Be kind most of the time. This probably is something I should learn from them.
3) Be a productive member of society – as in be financially independent and live within your means.
4) And finally, make a difference. I tell my kids they are very blessed and privileged to lead comfortable lives – no war, no poverty, no hunger. So they should donate a portion of their time, money and effort to some cause.
Yes, I have been called a hippy, tree hugger and many other things. And that is okay.
This is my response. My children are happy. They adjust and adapt well to changing situations and get along with different personalities. Maybe they won’t make it to an Ivy League school and become a doctor or lawyer or an engineer. Then again, they might. I don’t know.
But I do know this. My children are learning to be human. And that’s all that matters to me!
I had coffee with a friend recently. We were talking about how diverse some schools were and others not. My friend’s child had just started in the same school as my kids and had not been exposed to this diverse an environment. He had not seen so many different colors of skin. My friend laughed and told me her son came home and said this to her. “Mom, I have never seen so many colors. It went all the way from dark, alittle lighter, lighter, beige, lightest and children whose eyes are shaped differently than mine.” (We live in a small city where diversity is truly hard to find.) My friend’s son was very excited.
My friend then told me, “I don’t want my son to be ignorant. So I decided to educate him and told him that some students are African-American, some are White, some are Asian as in Indian, Korean, Chinese and some are African.”
My response was to marvel at her son’s perception of the physical differences in humans. The only thing noticeable to him was the color of the skin and the shape of the eyes. He did not say, “Oh! that person is Chinese and that person is African-american. They are different from me. I probably shouldn’t talk to them.” He wasn’t saying a student was from a particular culture or a specific ethnicity or a country and stereotyping them. Instead he was excited that everyone was different and he could have more friends.
That of course got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could adopt his way of looking at people? Then maybe we would be less prejudiced, less biased.