Right before bed last night, I was texting with Johnny Id and we were about to have a video chat when something caught my eye on Facebook (which I peruse occasionally) and got completely sidetracked.
One of my University roommates was killed on the weekend.
Not murdered, but killed in an accident – sudden and highly unusual in how it happened.
She had two children and was about to be married again in the next six months. It’s all over the news in the city in which she lives. No question, a horrible tragedy.
Although we had reconnected on Facebook, we hadn’t taken the next step to communicating via text and email. I hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know her as an adult. In University, she was a terrible roommate. She was prone to anger and would have screaming matches with her boyfriend. Although she moved into the apartment knowing we had a cat, she went ballistic at the cat’s antics. There were five of us in the apartment. She was so hard to get along with that she moved out before the year was up, and went to live in a sorority.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t have great memories of her.
Of course, all of the Facebook and news stories highlight how amazing she was. Of course they do. We don’t want to remember anyone badly in the face of their sudden, tragic, death. I’m sure she’s not the same person I knew 20 years ago. I wish I could have known the person reflected in her eulogies.
My son and I were on public transit going home from our outing yesterday. A disheveled homeless man came to each person and asked for money. I said “sorry”. I was tired and frankly didn’t want to root around in my bag for money.
My son asked what was going on. I explained that the man was asking for money because he didn’t have any.
He thought about it for a second and then said “Mummy, I would like to give him 25 cents from my change wallet”. I told him that would be no problem, and proceeded to give him several dollars instead. It was our stop, so we got up, I handed my son the money, and he walked over to the man and gave it to him.
The look on the man’s face was indescribable. This small blonde person not afraid, but instead showing compassion for someone who was in such a bad place he had to beg from strangers.
Afterwards, we talked about it a bit more. The conversation went something like this:
- Him: Mummy, why did you decide to give him more money?
- Me: Because he needed those few dollars far more than we do.
- Him: Now he will have money to eat?
- Me: Well, he’ll have some money to go towards food, yes.
- Him: I guess he doesn’t have enough money to replace a tooth if he loses it, does he?
- Me: Yes sweetie, that’s right. He wouldn’t have money for a new tooth, or food, or clothes, or a home.
My son is losing his baby teeth, you see, so tooth loss is front-and-centre these days.
When surrounded by privilege and first world problems, the least I can do is model compassion and empathy. That night, he reminded me that I can do this at every opportunity, not just when it’s convenient. I hope that my son will learn from my actions, and it looks like he already is.