I do the "Park and Ride" thing, meaning I park my car at my daughter's high school visitor parking lot in the morning when I drop her off, and I catch the bus the rest of the way to work.
One evening, I was at the bus transfer point and noticed a woman with two children about ages 8 and 10, a boy and a girl. It seemed like they were on their way home from work and school. The children were very pale and thin but well behaved and clean.
They started complaining about how hungry they were and the woman or mother told them they would eat as soon as they got home. The children whined that there was nothing to eat at home. The woman seemed embarrassed and said nothing further. The incident really bothered me. I had cash with me I would have given to them to buy food, if I could have thought of a way to approach them.
Later, I relayed this observation to my friend and my daughter. My friend told me there used to be a program for poor people with children. It was called "Aid to Families with Dependent Children" and, of course, it has been done away with. The children I saw, probably, are just a meal away from malnutrition. The school lunch they get is probably what saves them.
I have taken the bus to work off-and-on over the last five years and in my opinion there is an increase in poverty among children and the elderly. Right across the street from the transfer point is a ritzy mall with all kinds of upscale stores. Gas-guzzling Humvees and sports cars speed out of its parking lot. Surely we can afford to provide for a safety net for people who find themselves in need of basics like food and shelter.
Next day, I am waiting at the transfer point again. I see this woman in a work uniform running to get on the bus. She is loaded down with bags of groceries. The bus pulls away before she can make it and she, of course, is upset.
As she turns back to find a bench to sit down she looks at me and is telling me something I cannot understand. I respond to her that, at this particular transfer point, once the buses pull out, they won't stop to let late people on. (From my observation, I think it has to do with time and safety constraints, but I don't tell her this.)
As she answers me, I realize she is deaf or partially deaf, and she tells me that, regardless, she will call and file a complaint. I nod in agreement. Then she lays her bags down on the bench. There are six of them. I count them and wonder how she managed. She is soon elated when the next bus arrives. She starts grabbing her bags. She is afraid the bus will pull away. I start thinking that maybe I should grab two bags and carry them to the bus for her, but just then a man jumps off the bus and runs to her and asks her if she needs help. She says yes, and he helps her carry some of her grocery bags to the bus.
Now it is my turn to be elated, people are helping each other in small ways. And I make myself a promise to be more alert next time, even if I am tired, and help someone. When I hear some people say that poor people are poor because they are lazy, I no longer stay quiet. I give them examples, such as this woman who is deaf, is working and is trying to get her groceries home as best she can.
Photo: Via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/drmillerlg/3591550026/
Noelia Wilson is a writer and rider from North Texas.