Okay, so I’m a mom, right? Always looking for an opportunity to enrich my daughter’s life. To expand her knowledge. To enlighten her in the ways of the world. To teach her whatever I can.
It was 4th of July weekend and we had just had a serious barbeque. I mean, we had two grills going (okay, one was a mini cooker and the other was a George Foreman burner — but they were rocking it).
We had condiments at every turn, patty’s, buns, sodas, wine, corn, chicken, cakes… and the food kept rolling in. With every new guest arrived new deliveries. My fault because I made it a potluck event for fear I might not have enough to go around. As it would turn out, I had too much.
When the party ended and the last guest left I looked at the aftermath of the food hurricane. What was a single mom with a little girl who, between the two of them, barely finished a complete meal going to do with all this food?
So, I had a brilliant thought. I will use this disgusting display of gluttony as an opportunity to teach my girl how to give to those in need.
Baby, we’re going to pack up this food and deliver it to a homeless person.
I marched off to the kitchen all full of my thoughtful self and began wrapping and packing and carving and piling the endless amount of leftovers. By the end of it I was like Santa Claus with a sack of food and wine that would surely be a Christmas feast for one lucky homeless person on this hot 4th of July weekend.
We loaded up the car and off we went.
Now, in Studio City there are certain spots that you can always depend on there being a homeless person. There’s the 101 off-ramp at Laurel Canyon, the bus stop near Coldwater, pretty much anywhere on Ventura between Whitsett and Tujunga, and Moorpark Park near the swings.
So, I knew this would be a quick delivery.
Mission: find our person, give them the feast, wish them a happy holiday and show my girl a little something about generosity and compassion. Ah, yes, Susan was feeling the spirit.
Bunny, there are people not as fortunate as us and what we’re doing is a really good thing.
I headed for the 101 off ramp first because I liked the guy that always stood there holding the sign. But, as we reached our destination, much to my surprise, he wasn’t there. Hmm… where could he be?
Mommy, maybe he found a home.
Maybe… no worries, off to the next spot.
Once again, no homeless person. Where was she? The one who we never could tell if she was a she or he but we always gave a few bucks to whenever we saw her/him.
Onward we went… and went, and went. For the next hour-and-a-half, as my car was now stinking of greasy burgers and my child was starting to fall asleep, I drove and drove, desperate to find a homeless person.
Dammit, I had a delivery to make and a beautiful lesson to teach, now where the hell is a homeless person when you need one?!
My daughter was convinced they all found homes and now she was ready to go home too.
Mommy, I’m tired, please let’s go home.
All I thought was, we have a home, but someone SOMEONE out here doesn’t. We are going to do a good deed! We’re not quitting until we drop this food off to someone less fortunate! Stay awake, baby. Have some corn on the cob, grab a soda! Mommy’s no quitter!
Driving, driving… I was now forgetting the spirit completely and just sort’ve pissed off that my beautiful “plan” was not going the way I imagined.
And then… I found her.
There she was. Our girl. Our special homeless woman who was about to be in for a wonderful surprise. She was a little old woman, white crazy hair, a hand-knitted cap and a row of filled shopping carts chained together next to her… and she was asleep. It was perfect.
Oh, baby, look at her. So sweet. Wasn’t it worth all the driving to find her? I won’t wake her. I will simply place our amazing picnic basket of food and wine next to her and when she wakes up it truly will be like Christmas morning for her.
My daughter beamed. I beamed. It was beaming time.
I pulled over, tiptoed to our lady, carrying the bag of goodies and gently placed it next to her.
I looked at my child who gave me the biggest smile ever. We did it… we did it! And as I began to walk proudly back toward the car, finally ready to go home, tuck my girl into bed and talk about this day I heard from behind…
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TO ME, LADY!!!? YOU GET THIS AWAY FROM ME! YOU PICKED THE WRONG LADY!
I turned in terror. That baritone scream couldn’t possibly be coming from… oh, but it was. Running toward me with my just-delivered groceries was the little old lady with fire in her eyes.
YOU GET THIS BOMB AWAY FROM ME! YOU PICKED THE WRONG LADY, BITCH! YOU HEAR ME?! YOU PICKED THE WRONG LADY!
And now I was running from her, running from my food, running into my car and as I fumbled with the keys, trying to start the car, telling my daughter to lock the doors, suddenly a rainfall of burgers and corn and cake and wine and chicken and macaroni came pouring down on my car. Showering my car. Every single item I had taken the time to cook, pack, wrap and deliver she dumped all over my car and was now dripping off the windows.
And the old woman was screaming at me to go, GO GO GO! Go I did.
I pulled away as fast as I could as little knitted cap woman was still waving her arms at me screaming.
Silence. The only sound was the windshield wipers trying to wash the Jello mold off my windshield, but was really only spreading and smearing it around.
From the back seat my daughter finally spoke,
Mommy… was it supposed to happen like that?
I took a long breath,
No, honey. Not like that.
And as I later drove us through the car wash, my child now fast asleep in the back seat, I wondered… what was supposed to happen? Did I think I could just orchestrate a lesson and have it play out like some Hallmark commercial? Where had my humility gone? In my desire to give to the needy… it became all about my needs.
I felt a rush of shame.
It’s an amazing thing being a mom. So often when I think I’m teaching the lesson… the lesson is taught to me.