We rolled down 45th Street today over I-5, pulled into the left-turn lane to head North and waited. From the backseat, Baby Z’s three year-old voice piped up with one of those “why” questions you hear from three year-old all the time. This one ended up being a bit tough, though.
“Daddy, what bus is that man waiting for? Where is he going?”
Now, I got to give it to Baby Z that he understands bus stops sufficiently to know that someone sitting in one ought to be going somewhere. Unfortunately, in this case, the man was going nowhere. Regarding myself as a progressive parent who refuses to shelter his child from uncomfortable truths, I took my best shot at it.
“Why doesn’t he have a home?”
Yeah, OK, we’re going there. “He doesn’t have a home because he can’t work, or doesn’t want to work. And probably because he drinks too much alcohol.”
“What?!” I could hear the sense of amazement and perhaps a tinge of delight at uncovering some new, unexpected fact: people could not work because they drank too much alcohol? He knows I drink alcohol, and that I enjoy that it makes me “dizzy”. I’ll dip my finger in whatever I’m drinking and let him have a taste, which he enjoys. How could this cause someone to not go to work?
I took my best shot at explaining how some people liked alcohol too much, and drank so much of it that they couldn’t work and that meant that they might not be able to have a home.
“Where do they sleep?”
“Well, maybe in a tent, there by the highway.”
“He doesn’t have a home because he is camping all the time!”
Mmmmm…OK, causality may be a bit muddled, but he’s tracking the basic plot.
Long conversation follows about why he doesn’t have a home, the people who try to help him, etc. All of which left me with the clear sense that we haven’t heard the last of this particular conversation.
Parents of Wallingford: what do you do when your kids ask about the homeless people living in camps by the highway? And what do you say when they ask why someone broke the windows on your car (which has happened to our friends Sarah and Terry, up by 44th and 4th Ave NE twice in the past two weeks)?
(Photo by Romi Chiorean. Taken in Seattle, not in Wallingford.)