I was sitting in the front passenger seat of our van this afternoon waiting with the kids while Doug picked up some groceries inside Ralph’s. We were on our way home from the hospital where I have been since Friday with symptoms of pre-term labor. I was enjoying my time catching up with the kids when I looked up and saw a young girl, maybe ten years old, standing beside the entrance of Ralph’s. I noticed her because she was just standing there, alone, and she was holding a little sign–something scrawled on a piece of cardboard. When she turned a bit I could read the words: “Please Help”.
I couldn’t leave the kids alone in the car and I was on bed-rest orders from the hospital, and I felt a bit paralyzed about what to do. I couldn’t believe that a parent would drop their child off and have her stand, alone at a grocery store, asking for money. People went in and out of the store, and no one stopped to talk to this little one. I called Doug on his cell phone and told him when he came back out I needed to go and talk with her. I also decided to call L.A.P.D. dispatch to have an officer come out and check on her situation.
When I finally had the chance to talk with her, I asked her what she needed help with. She told me that her family needed money for gas for their car, and she pointed toward the other side of the parking lot where they must have been waiting. By then the Ralph’s security guard had already come out to talk with her as had a few other customers. L.A.P.D. arrived by the time we were leaving, and I wondered at what would happen to this girl and to the adults in her life that seemed so casual (and calculating) in their use of her. I felt that deep frustration as well that comes with situations where I don’t know how to get involved, or where I only scratch the surface by giving someone a bit of cash or calling for some other authority to intervene (which was all I did in this case).
Mercy and I talk a lot about the story of the Good Samaritan. How costly the call to love is, and how regularly I choose, for reasons good and bad, to pass by at a distance.