The Little Boy and the Fire Truck

There is a small park near our house where the children go to play on most days. They get to meet and play with children from the neighborhood, and have made a few friends there.

Set up right on the sidewalk next to the park is an ironing cart that looks something like this one.

IMG_5985.1

source

That is what Tamil writing looks like, Tamil being the local language here in Tamil Nadu.

These carts are very common here. Almost every street has one. While we have an iron at home, Glad will often take his work shirts to a cart like this and have them iron a stack for the week, to save him time in the morning.

They use these types of coal irons.

For a lot of poor families, the ironing cart is their livelihood. In order to make enough money to eat that day and buy the coal, they work all day. Many have their small children running around on the sidewalk and street while they work because there is no where else for the children to go.

The family who work the cart next to our park is like that. They have two small children who I’m guessing are under 3 years old. The mother often sends them inside the park to play, which is definitely safer than having them play on the street, but of course they have no oversight.

About 2 weeks ago, the kids and I were at the park and the little boy was there. Everything was going great until he discovered a small plastic animal Logan had brought along but had left on the ground. I let him play with it, but when Logan and Lila found out that he had it, they wanted it back and he wouldn’t give it up. He raced to the low side wall where his mother was working on the other side, and cried as she forced him to give the toy back to Lila, who was standing there trying to explain.

Had Logan been in a different frame of mind, I would have suggested that he let the boy keep it since he has so many at home. But Logan was very upset. These animals are his favorites and he can’t even stand his sisters taking them unless he is in a sharing mood.

As we walked home, Logan kept talking about how naughty the boy was, how he shouldn’t take other peoples toys, etc. I explained to him that the boy wasn’t naughty, but was more likely bored. I told Logan that his family is poor and can’t afford toys (I’ve never seen the children with any) and his parents have to work very hard just so they can eat. I then suggested that perhaps the kids could share some of the toys they never use with this boy and his sister.  Logan freaked out at the idea so I dropped it.

Two days later we were headed to the park again. I reminded my kids about the idea of giving theses kids some toys, and I assured Logan he would not have to give up his favorites. Lila was excited to give them something so together she and I found two toys that never got any use – a sturdy fire truck and a squeaky baby doll.

As soon as we got to the park, Lila wanted to give them the toys so I let her run over to the wall to pass on the toys. The mother was very grateful for the toys and gave the truck to her son right away. Within minutes he was over at the playground, racing the truck over ever surface that he could. He piled rocks and sand for it, and Lila and Scarlett joined him.

I had never see this boy smile before, but that day he had a huge smile. He looked as if he would burst from the excitement of having a toy of his own, which I’m sure he never had before.

There are many poor people here in India, way too many for even the most generous person to help. I rarely give money to those begging, simply because once you do it, they want it every time you pass, and also it is hard to know who is for real and who isn’t. (There are many who aren’t.)

But this situation was different. This is a family who works hard to make ends meet, but can only afford the most basic necessities. The children wear clothes that look like they’ve come from a trash pile, so toys wouldn’t even be on the list of important things for them. Lila sure felt the joy of giving that day. She was so happy to give the toys and see how happy they made this family.

As for me, it reminded me of how good it feels to give help when it is truly needed. It also helped me see that I need to talk about these things with my kids. They have grown up here. They see poor people all the time. They also know that they have pretty much anything they want, and it is hard for them to understand that not everyone can buy whatever they want at any time. This has led to more discussion on the topic of how not everyone is born into an equal station in life.

Their main question is, “Why not?” They don’t see rich or poor. They just see people. It can be hard to explain why some are poor and some are not, without getting into topics they are not ready for. For now, I will teach them to help whoever they can, whenever they can.

 

How do you go about teaching your children to help others?

Advertisements

Mommy Equals Love

They call me mommy, but I am more than that.

This word – mommy – embodies many roles. It refers to one person, and the many she becomes.

To be a mommy, you have to be everything else as well.

 

I cook 3 times a day, plus prepare snacks. I am a chef.

I wash mountains of laundry – mountains that refuse to stay away. I am a washerwoman, and a mountaineer.

I wash never-ending piles of dishes, dishes that magically appear out of nowhere. I am a dish-wash machine come to life.

I pick up messes, messes, and more messes. Where they come from nobody knows.  I am a maid.

I take my children wherever they need to go. I am a chaperon. (I don’t drive or I would be a chauffeur too.)

I bathe my children, wipe their butts, change diapers, brush hair, brush teeth. I am a personal attendant.

I teach my children what they need to know in life. I am a teacher.

I tend to ouchies, cuts, bonks and boo boo’s. I make them take vitamins and medicine. I am both doctor and nurse.

I make sure they eat healthy food. I am a nutritionist.

I buy their clothes, shoes, and toys. I am a personal shopper.

I sort out fights and arguments, and cool hot tempers. I am a diplomat.

I run the house. It is my job to make sure everyone else is where they should be, doing what they should do. I am a boss.

 

But a mommy is so much more than all of those, for she is the one the children cherish, the one they run to when they are sad, in pain, or need comfort. They come to her for advice, for hugs and cuddles, for encouragement. Even though their antics may drive her insane, at the end of the day, it is their sweetness that keeps her going.

For children, mommy equals love.

Dedicated for Life

I’ve seen them numerous times on my weekend jogs at our neighborhood park. I’ve seen fathers and sons out together before, bonding in all the different ways a father and son can, but these two are different

The father must be close to 70 years old. He is balding, with a ring of white hair around his head. He always wears a short-sleeved button shirt, a lungi and sandals. He has bowed legs yet manages to keep a decent pace. He is in good shape for someone his age.

The son is tall and walks very straight. I put his age around 40. Except for a pot belly, he is not overweight. He always wears the same thing: a checkered, short-sleeved button shirt and navy blue pants that are frayed at the bottom. He walks at a slow pace, sort of lumbering along in his bare feet.

But there is something else about the son. He has a disability of some sort. I can’t tell what it is, though it seems to be mental. He spends his whole walk calling to his father: “Papa, papa”. Should his father get out of sight, he calls louder “Papa, papa”. Since the father walks faster than the son, he can get far ahead and out of sight often, but as soon as he is close again, he always acknowledges his son.

Today I noticed them as I was leaving. They were passing where I was sitting in the playground and the son called loudly “Papa” while gesturing to the benches. His father gave a reply that I took to mean he wanted him to walk one more round. It wasn’t in English so I won’t swear to that meaning but it made sense to me.

What really gets me is how much this father loves his son. Obviously the son has stayed with his parents his whole life; he is still a child mentally and needs care. Imagine the dedication of the parents! Most of us can’t wait for our kids to grow up and move out, but they have, knowingly and willingly, given their whole lives to the care of their son. That is unselfishness at its best!

I’ve tried to imagine how I would act if one of my children were disabled in this way. Would I really be unselfish enough to dedicate my whole life until my dying day to my child? Would I be able to endure year after year, knowing my child would never leave home, never be self-sufficient, never be able to reach a point where they would care for me in my old age? I hope I would.

%d bloggers like this: