I just arrived in Atlanta today for the show at AmericasMart Atlanta. It was a busy day with flying, getting to my hotel, rushing down to the showroom (which looks fabulous by the way) and helping get things set up for opening day tomorrow. Finally at 8pm I was DONE. I was tired and I needed to be fed. But before I headed to my hotel, I decided to run across the street to CVS to pick up a few things.
While I was wandering the aisles, I passed a woman with a little girl in a stroller. The little girl looked to be about 5 years old and she was sitting very quietly. Her mom was saying things (a bit loudly) like, "I know you're hungry, but I don't have any money to buy you any food" and "stop complaining about being hungry, I can't do anything about it." Here's the thing. The little girl wasn't saying a thing. I was standing right next to her and would have heard her if she had.
Immediately I started a mental debate. This woman obviously wanted to me to hear what she was saying and I couldn't decide what to do. I normally wouldn't hesitate to buy this adorable little girl a meal, but I started making some snap judgments. The mom bought two huge cans of Arizona Ice Tea instead of food for her daughter and if I'm being completely honest, I made the horrible judgment that from her appearance, the mom definitely wasn't starving. But it really bothered that she bought what she did if her little girl really was starving.
Then they were in the check out line in front of me and I continued my internal debate. I really thought the mom was playing an act so while I debated myself as to what to do, she finalized her purchase and walked out of the store. Minutes later, I walked out myself and there they were sitting on a bench outside the store. As I walked by, she said again, "I know you're hungry...." I continued walking.
And then I couldn't take it. I turned around and asked her if her little grl was hungry and if I could buy her something to eat. The woman said, "yes" and that I could take her into the store and she would wait her with my suitcase. I politely said "that's ok" and then asked the little girl if she wanted to go buy something to eat.
She looked up at me and nodded her head. I asked her what her name was and she said "Net Net" (her mom later told me it was short for Antoinette).
She wanted chips, pudding and other snacks. I bought her a ham & cheese sandwich, a bottle of milk, lunchables, raisins and a box of Special K protein bars that had chocolate in them.
I really had to control myself and try not to judge this mother. I was shocked that she would tell a total stranger to take her daughter into the store (I guess there was only one entrance so I couldn't take off with her, but still...).
As I returned Net Net to her mother, she thanked me over and over. She explained that they just arrived from Ohio and times are really hard. Her husband's family is from here but they said they couldn't stay with them. Her husband is off "who knows where" doing "his thing" and she was just praying for some help when I came along.
As I said good-bye, I realized that I didn't have any place to judge this woman. Maybe I had been played. Maybe not. But as for Net Net, she sure did look hungry. As I walked away, the thought popped into my mind that this mom on the streets was doing the best she could with what she had. And it wasn't for me to judge where her "best" fell on the spectrum. It was her BEST.
I'm not all that proud of the thoughts that went through my head tonight and how long it took me to decide whether or not to buy a little girl some food. Tonight, MY best certainly didn't include the judgments I made. My best didn't include the $20 bucks I spent on food for Net Net. I spent more than that last week at the movie theatre.
But for little Net Net's sake, I'm glad some sense finally crept into my thick skull. I'm glad I had the thought "you will not be able to sleep tonight if you walk away from that hungry little girl."
Later, I walked into my hotel room, ordered room service and began to write this blog. I still might not be able to sleep tonight. But at least Net Net and her mom (yes, I bought her mom a sandwich too - very big of me...) have a bit of food in their tummies tonight.
And tomorrow, I am going to try to be a little bit better. In fact, I am going to try to be just like little Net Net's mom and do what she's doing....her best.