November 14, 2008

Childhood scars

"You should wear with pride the scars on your skin — they're a map of the adventures and the places you've been."
Poi Dog Pondering

It's been another tough day among many tough days. I had a good conversation with a dear friend today who found a little work for me to do around her office while I'm struggling to make ends meet. It seems that the financial mess is catching up with a lot of people these days, while I have been immersed in it for quite some time. We talked about our struggles and our life experiences and being up and down over the years. It got me looking back over the course of my life and particularly my childhood. The Nurse didn't have an easy childhood and neither did I — albeit that our struggles were completely different. But I can remember being dirt poor, having to live with my Dad's sister after my parents split while my dad scrambled to figure out how to support two kids on his own. Always wearing hand-me-downs and looking like a ragamuffin. We were mostly shielded from his worry and poverty in those days, but there were plenty more that I can easily recall. My dad worked hard and provided the things that we needed but we had to go without a lot. Being the "poor kids" at the Catholic school was tough at times, but I'm extremely grateful for the education that I had.
I started wondering how my own children are perceiving our struggles. We've done our best to shield them from it too, still managing to scrape together another month of tuition for their private school, still managing to pay for extra-curricular activities most of the time. But I also do want them to be aware of the struggles, and hopefully, to be grateful for all that they do have. There are so many more who have so much less, with so few opportunities available to them.
Today as I left my friend's office, a toothless woman approached me and asked me if I knew where she could go for some help. She described her desperate circumstances: homeless, mother of two, needed a little cash to pay for one more night at the apartment hotel. Sadly, I didn't even have any change to give her but tried to direct her to a shelter just a few blocks away. I considered going to the bank and getting out a little money to give her, which would be charitable at best, irresponsible at worst. Her story being highly questionable for a few reasons, I didn't return but felt incredibly guilty nonetheless. Even if she was an alcoholic with a made-up story about kids, I knew that my circumstances, no matter how desperate, were infinitely better than hers, and I wanted to give her whatever I could. I have an education, a college degree, marketable skills, family and friends who love me, three job interviews next week and lots of things to be hopeful about. I have my health, plenty of food to eat, a roof over my head. I know that this too shall pass. That God will provide enough. That there is abundance in the universe. I even know that the fact that my kids are so disconnected from the reality of our situation is probably a good thing, nevermind that I'm sometimes speechless at their seeming ingratitude. But if these struggles are for something good, I pray that they make our children as resilient as The Nurse, and as grateful as I am for all that matters. A childhood with a few scars might just be exactly what God has in mind....

No comments: