Once upon a time there was a neighbor who lived up the street from a single mother. Now this single mother didn’t have a working car, never got child support (and no before you ask child support enforcement would not enforce it. She tried. Lots of times.), had a baby and a kindergarten age child, and worked at McDonald’s so she’d been told she made too much money to get help and consequently couldn’t afford a phone. They lived several miles outside of their small town.
This neighbor decided it was her Christianly duty to do something about this menace that lived in the woods up the lane. So she would rifle through the single mother’s mail, sometimes outright stealing it (and glared as if she had the right when caught) and said – as was her Christianly duty – that the single mother could come to her for help when needed.
One very cold winter morning at about 5, the single mother and her toddlers knocked on the woman’s front door to use the phone. The mother had to get to work and couldn’t find a ride and wanted to call a cab. She normally walked the ten miles or so with her kids on her hips but that morning was too cold and her children were crying from the chill.
The woman was angry at being woke up so early and yelled at her. So the single mother went away and disturbed another neighbor for a phone. The other neighbor let the single mother warm her children in the heat while they waited for the cab. Meanwhile the first neighbor followed the single mother there and proceeded to berate the single mother loudly about how she dared to come to her door with crying children so early in the morning.
I can’t remember what all that woman said, really, as she yelled at me for the inconvenience of me taking her up on her offer. I just remember sitting on the floor with my children – I was not offered a seat by the second neighbor – hugging my kids. I gave that bitch the back while I listened. Then I said, “You people just don’t understand.”
In the middle night I think of that woman and her false offer. I never ever ever offer help unless I mean it. And when a mother comes knocking on my door with a child crying from the cold and I hear her, I open my damn door. Not because I’m a so-called Christian, but because I like to think I’m better than that.
And I always was.