My daughter is inquisitive and most of her conversations are a series of questions. Usually, I can answer her questions, which revolve around day to day activities. When are we going to swim lessons? When can I get up? Do I have to take a nap? Can I have two popsicles, instead of one? I am pinging answers like I am playing tennis and I know I’ve won a certain round of a conversation when she reaches a two minute silence point. Of course, I know she is just gearing up for more questions to ask.
There are those questions that she asks that I can’t answer. Because I don’t know how to answer them.
My daughter and I were walking near a street, where she saw a man laying on the ground. My first inclination was to distract her, hoping her mind would catch something else. But it didn’t. She saw the same man I did. We have all seen him. Thin, tattered clothing, the obligatory grocery cart and sign decorating his corner of the street. He doesn’t have a home.
“Momma, why is he sleeping on the street?”
“He is a little tired, I think.”
“You think he is hungry?”
“Why can’t he sleep in his home?”
“He doesn’t have a home.”
“Why doesn’t he have a home?”
“I don’t know.”
The conversation ends there, but I am left with lingering thoughts. I’ve probably had a handful of encounters with the homeless. I’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen, given money to charity and have passed out dollar bills to the random homeless people on the street. I say to myself that I am doing my part, but I know I am not.
3.5 million people are homeless in the United States. Of that 3.5 million, 1.35 million are children who will experience homelessness. There is probably a little girl about the same age as my daughter who is asking a different set of questions: When are we going to eat? Where are we going to sleep? Will the shelter take us in?
And that for me is hard to stomach, but I live in the land of the suburbia bubble. I think of homelessness in the passing, when I am forced to answer a question for my daughter.
Why doesn’t he have a home? I still don’t know. But worries me is that as an adult I am not asking that question anymore. I am immune to this reality. And that is a scary thought.
How do you tackle difficult questions with your children? Have you become immune to the sight of homelessness? Do you think you live in a bubble?