Earlier this week, my husband and I both had a later than usual night at work. On the drive home, he called and reminded me we hadn’t made it to the grocery store the previous weekend and the house was devoid of food. Well…barring food of the cat and dog kind, the end two pieces of what used to be a loaf of bread, and half a jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.
“I can stop by McDonald’s,” I told him, “I know we don’t like it, but the kids do and it’s cheap and fast?”
He agreed, and there I was in the drive-thru line of a place I don’t like to be. Because Styrofoam. And high sodium. And low wages. And chemicals. And rain forests. (I’ll stop now before I give myself another Gen-X guilt trip.)
After I paid for my food (apparently ordering for 5 is an overload on the McDonald’s system) they directed me to a spot out of the line to wait for my order. I’d begun to roll up my window (it’s a manual – we’re on a budget, yo) when an older gentlemen approached my car.
“I don’t suppose they put an extra burger in your bag, did they?”
“No, they didn’t. They haven’t even given me my food yet.”
“No worries, ma’am. God bless and I hope you have a great night.”
He walked a little further down the parking lot and sat down next to a bag that had been around since 1972, maybe 1975 – but I’m not going any later than that.
Two of our three kids were sitting in the back seat, Mr. Schmee (14) and Tomboy Princess (10). Not more than a few seconds had passed when the older of the two said, “Mom…”
“Yeah, Mom…” echoed the youngest.
“I know,” I replied. “I need to wait here for our food. Mr. Schmee, can you handle this?”
“Of course, I can.”
I handed him a $10 bill, which he grabbed and then walked over to the gentleman.
With my window still down I heard him say, “Let’s go get you some dinner,” and they both walked inside.
A couple of minutes passed; simultaneously, an employee brought out our order and Mr. Schmee got back in the car with change.
I pulled out of the parking lot and told Mr. Schmee thanks, and the youngest piped up, “I hope he finds someplace warm to sleep.”
“Me too, little bit.”
“But at least he’s not hungry anymore.”
“Yep,” I reply, “at least that.”
This is what makes me the most proud of our children. They aren’t the smartest. They forget they have homework. Nightly. They aren’t the most athletic. They can’t clean their rooms. They aren’t the most talented. They aren’t prodigies or wunderkinds. BUT – they are insanely and beautifully compassionate.
They don’t see “them” or “us.” They see “we.”
They don’t see “black” and “white.” They see “gray.”
They listen to news radio with me and ask questions, trying to make sense of the turmoil in the world. This despite the many times I tell them most of the turmoil makes no sense.
They love love. They hate hate. They long for the same utopia I longed for at their age. Thoughts that faded as I grew older and reality began to tear at the fabric of my dreams.
Maybe not as much as I fear, though. People are constantly looking at this generation and “weeping for our future” – but I look at my kids and think, “We are leaving our legacy in some pretty capable hands.”
My kids know compassion, not because we told them, not because we read a book about it…but because we showed them.
As parents, our actions will be the loudest legacy that we leave.
Related post: His Name Was Tom
This post is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion Campaign.