It's a mad, mad world ... and I'm mad about it

I cried on the way home from the store yesterday.

Not because either of the boys threw a fit or anything; they were both as angelic as they get. I cried because when I was in the parking lot strapping both of them back into their car seats, an older gentleman approached me with a simple question.

“Where’s the K-Mart?” he asked. I told him it was on the other side of the street, just down one plaza to the left, less than a half-mile.

“And that’s where I get the bus?” he asked.

I have no idea, I said. “I’m sorry, I’m just not familiar with the bus routes around here.”

“OK, thanks,” he said, and started walking diagonally across the long parking lot toward the highway.

He was an unassuming fella, probably about 60, dressed casually with a ball cap on his head and a plastic shopping bag in his hand. As I watched him it dawned on me that he really could use a lift to where he was going. It had been raining off and on all day and the sky looked like it was about to open up again.

As if on cue, Kostyn started saying, “Papa, Papa,” which is what he calls his grandfather.

I wanted to drive over to him, roll down the window and say, “Let me drive you there.” But I couldn’t. As much as I knew in my heart this guy was harmless, I couldn’t risk it.

I’m vulnerable with these two helpless beings depending on me to keep them safe. I think about that every day, even when I’m at home and there’s a knock at the door. I’m not fearful, I’m just ... careful. Mindful that this is not the world where I grew up, the world where we rushed out our front doors all those summer mornings to our parents yelling for us to “Be home by dinner!” and not worrying where we were headed, knowing that the neighborhood was safe, that the streets we played on were harmless, that other parents had their eyes on us as if we were their own.

I don’t know where that world went, but it’s gone. Or maybe it’s still here, buried beneath our overabundant coverage of and exposure to society’s degenerates and tragic accidents. Either way, the entire neighborhood is no longer a child’s back yard. Now there are play dates and security systems and hand sanitizer.

So instead of picking him up and delivering him safely across the six-lane highway, I made my way to the shopping plaza’s entrance and watched him climb up a steep embankment and slide down the other side. And I cried. I cried because I felt bad that I wasn’t helping a stranger, that I had to ignore my instinct to lend a hand and sit silently instead. But I also cried for the world in which I was bringing up my boys. I cried for them having to grow up in a world where you can’t just give an old guy a lift.

Maybe if we’re lucky, when Kostyn and Evan are my age the world will have righted itself. Maybe they’ll talk about their childhood in a similarly long-lost way, only they’ll be talking about a world that’s changed for better, not for worse. “Remember when we were growing up and Mom had to schedule our play dates with our friends, and we weren’t allowed to leave our yard, and you couldn’t ever pick up a hitchhiker because you just didn’t know what might happen? Man, that sucked. I’m glad it’s not like that anymore.”

A mom’s gotta dream.


Heather said...

Beautiful and true. Its so discouraging that we live a world we can't trust. These days you wonder if you can even trust the people that you should be able to. Its really sad. I was a child that was out until the street lights came on, Dylan will be the child who has her mother everywhere she goes.

It is refreshing to know that there are still people who care out there, even if you can't do much about it.

David J. said...


Anonymous said...

I feel your frustration. I pride my self on helping out strangers in little ways. But when I'm with the little guy I have to be a lion. I take solice in knowing that someday when he's grown there will be two of us out their holding doors and helping mommas with strollers. In your case three! So in the long run you are actually helping to make the world a friendlier place.


Anonymous said...

Now I am crying. Such a beautifully written story Robyn. I long for those summer days. Noah can't even play outside for five minutes alone where we live. Even though we are surrounded by multimillion dollar houses...It's a crazy world!

Anonymous said...

Robyn - You put into beautiful words what I also feel. I take comfort in knowing that others are also having and raising children who will be loving, caring, and thoughtful human beings. I hope we will outnumber the crazy people someday and become a trusting society once again.
Yes, one can hope...