Saturday, January 22, 2011

Great social and political import

Random observations at the supermarket (does anyone still call them grocery stores?) - it goes like this:

A father is shopping with his 9-year-old daughter, and she is chattering away, narrating the world, picking items up, asking questions, putting them back.  His responses, when they come at all, come in terse phrases, hardly even sentences.  He looks blankly at his smart phone, as if seeking rescue from her.

As the father of a 20-year-old daughter, I know he's missing out.  His girl is prompting him to teach her, to shape her mind, to be her father.  He's not up to it, at least not now.

A child can be exhausting, and I suspect that this one asks a lot.  But her asking is an opportunity to share the best part of life, and he's blowing it.  There were times I blew it, too, and I wish he wouldn't blow it right in front of me, reminding me of the chances I missed.

A mother at the bread rack, my next destination, remonstrates her son.  About what, I don't know.  I skip the bread for the moment and head for dairy.

Another mom calls softly for her son.  "Is that him?" asks a man in the aisle.  "No, he's thirteen."  But that impulse to help a stranger is a good thing, not so often observed in the wild.

A Hindu mother leads her teenage son, who amiably pushes their cart.  She's traditional enough to have a small claret spot on her forehead.  He moves like an American teen.  I would guess that he will never return to live in India.  American youth culture, for all its flaws - because of many of its flaws, is the most powerful melting pot we have.

The man raising money, out in the bitter cold, for his church's hunger and poverty programs recognizes me and blesses me.  I had spurned his appeal when I went back to the car to get my reusable bags.  Then I had reconsidered and given him a couple of dollars - if I could act on my care for the environment, I had to act on my care for the poor, never mind that his church will proselytize for a religion I don't share.

He said, "God bless you," and I do feel blessed.

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