“Aw, you fell through the stairs and got hurt and no one was there to help you?” This, from Sophie, age 2.5. It’s the third time she has recounted the story and I can see the empathy and concern on her face. She pulls my sleeve down so that she can’t see the scrapes. This time, she adds a solution, “I need to find a friend for you!”
Sometimes you just need a little bit of sympathy. I found mine. I am awed and shamed by the compassion of a two year old and her sense of responsibility towards her fellow creatures. I wonder what happens to us along the way that we should find this so amazing, that we so easily ignore the pain of those around us, turn a blind eye to someone’s suffering.
Are we perhaps competing with each other, letting others fall by the wayside because then our chances of survival or success are better? Or is there just plain too much suffering around, too much need?
What if each of us took responsibility for those in our daily trajectory, the way Philip does with Tony, making it his mission to check up on him, advocate for him and give him a voice beyond his perch on Roncesvalles. Or the way Sarah does with the new family in our neighbourhood, taking on the challenge of helping them to integrate in spite of a language barrier. Imagine if everyone had mentors, advocates or friends who looked out for them. And what about the people who look like they don’t need any help at all?
Somehow, knowing that Sophie cares makes it all ok. I feel better knowing that she is watching out for me. Later that night, she began rocking herself to sleep chanting “I’m getting scared, I’m getting scared…” (Too much Hallow’een?) So I went into her room and did a little magic dance and hurled all the scary energies way up into the ether. Then I put up a little positive energy bubble to keep them away.
She may not beleive that I can do that, but maybe knowing that I care will help her to sleep a little better.
The guy next door beat the snot out of his wife on the weekend. The nine-year-old knocked on doors.
It took two neighbours and three cops to end it.
They say he’ll be out in six months.
I remember in high school, walking home through cabbage town, a sunny afternoon, sound of kids ahead of us, when suddenly a large man in their midst was wailing on them. The kid noises turned to small boy screams. And my own. I don’t know what kind of stuff I was screaming but my own frenzy didn’t penetrate his. He battering-rammed a kid’s head into the stone wall of the church, gave him a couple of kicks to the gut and stalked off.
The kid’s friends collected him and then melted into the neighbourhood while we followed the guy for several blocks. “I know what it’s like to get beaten up by a gang of kids!” he shouted at us. The people we passed knew who he was. We ducked into a shop to call the cops but the lady said no. My friend insisted. The cops came and he was arrested.
We were subpoenaed many months later, “Tell us in your own words what happened.” I think my own words were more colourful back then. “So, you’re saying, after all that, he just picked up his grocery bag and walked away?” I knew it was a trick question but couldn’t see the trick. “Yes,” I offered. “Is that your final answer?” In the end they argued that he never did put down his grocery bag, so how could he have done all this with one hand? How could I be remembering correctly if I didn’t notice that? Mr. RM was given community service for his trouble.
Houray for neighbours. One called the cops. Two ran to intervene. Several looked after the kids. But what happens next? How do you help in the long run? How many nine-year-olds have to ask for help? I’ve mentioned this guy before, wondering if it’s possible to be universally inclusive. And if so, how? How will it end? I feel like he is a bomb that has already gone off.
Can we really hope to contain the energy or deflect the damage?