Sunday, February 10, 2008

What If?

My wife and I are bargain shoppers. Today, after a call from her father, we headed to Schottenstein's Department Store on the Hilltop, armed with a tip that men's suits we on clearance.

After about thirty minutes, I found a great deal and a new suit. and so we headed to the check out. While paying, I happened to eves drop on a heated conversation between our clerk and her manager:

Clerk: "What is she doing? I don't know what the hell her problem is."

Manager: "She was saying that she gave the little girl forty dollars and she lost it. Who gives a little girl $40 to hold on to in the first place? She didn't deserve being screamed at like that."

As the conversation finished, I looked up to notice an agitated women in her late 40's approaching the line of shoppers. Her rapid movements made it seem as if something was terribly wrong.

A blond little girl was following the women. She must have been no more than nine or ten years old, and I'll never forget the expression of fear and embarrassment radiating from her face.

The angry women approached.

"I need four quarters" she shouted in desperation while waving a dollar bill. "Do you have four quarters? Do you have two quarters? Here, I'll even give ya a dollar for two quarters."

It was then that I noticed her her pupils. They were empty pin holes rolling around in her head. Her teeth were rotten, skin pale and he clothes were tattered and unkempt. It suddenly dawned on me that I had seen people like this before. Like them, this lady was in the clutches of a meth-amphetamine binge.

We had paid with a debit card and so I had no cash on my pocket to give. When she realized I couldn't help, the women again turned to the girl and began to call her names, blaming her for my lack of pocket change. The bystanders at the check out stood silent in shock, all of us looking to each other for an answer. For an action.

Should we do something? Is it our place to do something? What can we do?

After a moment, a small group of patrons and I approached the store manager to suggest that it might be time to call the police. He shook his head in agreement. Then he stood still.

As we exited and walked to the car, I couldn't keep my head from turning and looking back to for the girl. Should I have done more? Would it have made a difference for this poor child, or only made her situation worse? What else could I have done to protect her from a person consumed by a drug, who was supposed to be her care taker.

The ride home was uncomfortably silent.

Standing up together
What if I had intervened and tried to change the situation? What if everyone standing in line would have come to the little girl's rescue? What if the mob of shoppers had stopped, and cried out:

"That's wrong! You have no right to put a child through that! Is her confidence and self-esteem worth your next fix?"

Would that have changed anything?

1 comment:

  1. No, it would have made no difference. It may have agitated the woman even more. Calling professionals who could help her would have been the right choice.


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