Do you remember that Crystal Waters song, “La-da-dee, la-da-da, la-da-dee, la-da-da…She’s just like you and me, but she’s homeless, she’s homeless. . .?”
Yes, that's totally random, and possibly somewhat insulting, but I'm going somewhere with this.
I do have to give you credit. You brazenly strolled into Butternut, one of the Hyde Park playgrounds with a supply of discarded, community-property toys, selected two construction vehicles in good condition, placed them in your shopping cart and attempted to go on your merry way.
You saw our family walk in, and were gonna keep on keepin’ on!
I also have to thank you for your candor, as well as your willingness to engage in a civilized conversation without letting things get violent, because my Mama Bear Rage was coming up. My husband feared my mouth would get us cut, right in front of our children, no less.
And of course, I have to thank you for letting us take the toys back, and for the fact that today, almost two weeks later, you did not fulfill your promise to complete said toy removal.
Hyde Park is home to everyone from President Obama to people like yourself. Living in a neighborhood such as this, every now and then I should expect to be shaken up by people like you. People who, la-da-dee, la-da-da, are not just like me.
But, even so, shouldn’t we demonstrate a baseline of common decency toward each other?
I mean, honestly, when confronted by a mother telling you that those are her son’s favorite toys, responding, “he might like those toys, but those are not his favorite?” Really? My son plays with those every time he comes to Butternut. You told us that if people didn’t want the toys taken, they shouldn’t leave them there. When we explained that those toys belong to all the neighborhood’s children, you were unfazed, and declared your intention to sell those toys to get something to eat.
I couldn’t help feeling, looking at your cell phone, made up face and jeans straight out the yes, Crystal Waters era, that you were not going to buy food. I may have the street cred of Beaver Cleaver, but I wasn’t born yesterday.
“You don’t understand,” you said. “I’m homeless. I have to eat.” To which I responded, “So you’re going to steal from children?” I even tried to appeal to your sense of Christian decency -- a curious tactic, as I am not religious. It was to no avail. You maintained that not only were the toys there for you to take, but that you had a right to them, as they were linked to your survival. And you let me know you didn’t care about my kids.
But at least you let us remove the toys from your cart before walking toward the to the street. And then I had to go and yell, “No one takes things from my kids!” To which you menacingly responded, “What you say?” before continuing on your way.
Again, I thank you for your non-violence. You seem a reasonably sane and articulate woman. To be honest, your English was better than a number of my college students. So what happened to take you to the point where you’d steal from children? Steal from children and think it perfectly okay?
To not even lie and say, “I need those toys for my own kids.”
I have my suspicions why, but I would really like to know.
You probably think I should have let you have the toys based on the fact that most of the kids who frequent Butternut have access to more toys than they know what to do with.
No. Because something is given to the public, does not mean that it is there for one person to take.
Also, I couldn’t stand there in front of my children and let you take away toys, toys that belong to the park. That’s stealing – something bad people do. And even though I must, I hate introducing my children to the wrongful acts people are capable of.
I also have to explain that when we can, we stop the bad guys. And I’ll try to live up to that.
And you, my friend, in our little meeting were the bad guy. (My friend? God, see what you’ve done? You've made me sound like that moron Mitt Romney!)
Which gets me to how much our encounter threw my values into question. I consider myself liberal but, shamefully, I felt myself entertaining a number of right-leaning ideas that I usually find despicable.
I know you and I have led very different lives. And given America’s history with our people, I know I am extremely lucky to have been born into a law-abiding, striving and intelligent family.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
But still, as for you, what happened? Can you find your way out? Is it too late? Do you want help?
I hope you can find a new life. I really do. But here's the thing - if we are to keep some semblance of order, of community, if we're to all get along in our little diverse, liberal “socialist” utopia, can we agree not to take things that don’t belong to us? And can we care about everyone’s children?
It's a start. Simple, but not easy. La-da-dee, la-da-da, la-da-dee, la-da-da…