Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A lesson in being grateful

Tuesday night we were eating a particularly late supper. One of Evan’s friends knocked on the door. He went to answer it and asked if it was all right to have his friend wait in his room while we finished. We said yes. This little boy, let’s call him Austin for the sake of this post, who has been at my house many times in the past, walked past us all at the dinner table, and as he was heading up the stairs he turned and said

“ I wish I got to eat a family dinner with my Mom and Dad”.

Up the stairs he went. All four of us sat there in silence. My heart sank a little. John finally broke the silence and told Evan to go ask Austin if he would like to join us. They both came running down the stairs.

“Are you hungry? I asked.

“Yes” he said very quietly.

“Would you like some chicken and rice?”

“Yes, please” his eyes lit up.

“Did you eat supper tonight Austin?”

“Nope, my Mom works till like 9 or 9:30”

He was hungry. He ate 3 pieces of chicken and thanked me many times for it. A very polite little man.

Austin is a loner. He rides all over town on his bike. I don’t know much about his family, but I do see him wandering the streets at times when a child his age shouldn’t be wandering the streets. We’ve taken him home many a night when it’s just too cold or dark for him to ride home safely. His Mom never once calling the house looking for him.

A while later I asked Evan what kind of sandwich he wanted for lunch. Austin happily told Evan that he got free lunch every day. “Free lunch?” Evan looked at me and asked:

“How come I don’t get free lunch?”

“All you gotta do is fill out a paper,” he told Evan

“Mom we should fill out that paper”

Ok how do I handle this delicately? Before I had the chance to answer Austin says

“ I will find out for you tomorrow Evan”

Phew! I was frantically trying to come up with an answer for that one in my head, but luckily the conversation kinda died off.

As it approached 8:00pm I explained that Evan needed to take a shower and read for a half hour and asked if could John give him a ride home.

“Nah, I’m cool,” he said. “Besides I don’t have to be home till like 9:00pm”

9:00! On a school night?? Oh the thoughts that started running through my head. 11 years old on a bike, in the dark, alone. Please tell me he stays on the sidewalk?

I asked if someone was at home. “Yeah my Dad, he’s always in the basement”

Ok so Dad’s home but doesn’t feed the kid or call to see where he is after dark?

There were a hundred more questions I wanted to ask Austin, but I was afraid of the answers.

He thanked us for supper, jumped on his bike and off he went. Off into the dark. It bothered me. It bothered me so much that it was on my mind all night. Who was taking care of this child? Why didn’t he eat supper? Why is he allowed to roam the streets till 9:00pm on a school night? Doesn’t his mother worry about him? Care about him? Wonder where is he all those long hours by himself?

There is another story on his face. The scars. The family dog attacked Austin when he was a toddler. His face is covered in deep scars. When I look at him I wonder, was he attacked when no one was watching him? Did he scream and cry before someone noticed that he was being attacked? Was he alone? I just feel so bad for this kid.

After Evan had taken a shower, I talked to him about Austin. I want him to know and appreciate how lucky he is to sit down with his family to a hot meal every night. To be glad there is always someone home when he gets off the bus to make sure his homework is done, make him a snack; ask him how his day went. I want him to realize that not everyone gets a hug and an “I love you” before they close their eyes for the night. Not every child has a hot breakfast to fill their belly in the morning, or gets sent off to school with well wishes for the day.

I asked him to remember this when I’m getting a little too naggy, or I’m when I want to know exactly where he is all the time, when I tell him what time to be home, get a little overprotective, or call him when he’s not on his way back from the neighbors on time.

Sorry I rambled, this whole situation just shook me up inside. I worry. I care. I adore my children and would do anything in my power to protect them. I can’t imagine another mother not feeling the same way I do. I thought all Moms’ felt like me. I wish Austin’s did.
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