Friday, September 27, 2013

A Tale Of Two Counties

Two little girls, about the same age and living less than fifteen minutes' drive from one another.

I encountered the first little girl, a beautiful little African American child of about seven years of age, in the morning at the Contra Costa County charter school where I tutor. The children were lining up after Phys Ed to go back into the classroom as I was leaving, having had fine tutoring sessions with two other students. I noticed her among all the bright, happy faces because she was so sad that I felt compelled to ask her what was wrong.

"I'm so hungry" was her reply, her tears spilling shiny tracks down her soft brown cheeks. I took her hand and we consulted her teacher who sent us to the kitchen to see what was left over from the breakfast they serve every morning so the children who don't get breakfast at home will have fuel for the day. My little charge had been late to school, so had missed the breakfast. We rummaged around in the school fridge and found a string cheese, the kind that comes individually wrapped in plastic, and a handful of baby carrots to hold her over until lunchtime. Happy ending. She gave me a shy smile and bounced back to class, good spirits restored. I felt happy that I had noticed her plight and found a way to help.

We observed the second little girl later the same day, as we were enjoying dinner out at a restaurant that caters to families in affluent Marin County.

She was a beautiful little white girl with dark hair and blue eyes, about the same age as the child of the morning. Presented with the children's menu, she chose her dinner by pointing to her choice. The waiter offered her the milk or juice that went with her selection; she chose juice, but her parents intervened and suggested a glass of milk. 

In the blink of an eye, a pout replaced her smile. "I want juice," she insisted. The parents gently explained that the milk was better for her. "But I really, really want juice," she whined, in the kind of cajoling voice that makes parents everywhere (and anyone sitting nearby) cringe. Again, she was gently reminded of the virtues of milk, and offered either that or water. She exploded into angry tears, rejecting her parents' advice and stiffening her whole body into the act of refusal, crossing her arms across her chest and shouting, "No! I want juice! I want juice!" 

The first child was grateful for a string cheese and a small handful of baby carrots while the other pitched a fit over having milk to drink with her expensive restaurant meal. It was a tiny vignette; I might not have noticed at all had these two events not happened on the same day and to these two particular children, so close in age and so distant in circumstance. 

3 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

Stark reality. Beautifully told.

Friday, September 27, 2013  
Blogger Namastenancy said...

I agree with Diane. I see that in my neighborhood a lot. We now have a lot of upscale restaurants with equally entitled customers of all ages. At the same time, the church serves Sunday breakfast to the down and out which includes more and more families with children. Such huge economic differences here in the city of St. Francis.

Friday, September 27, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Diane, thank you.

Nancy, here, and in our whole country. Seems difficult to change, too.

Monday, September 30, 2013  

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