I remember an evening about a year ago. I think about it all the time; almost every single day.
My wife, daughter, and I were on a shopping trip to Wal-Mart (we’ll save the “I don’t want to shop at the Big Blue Monster, but don’t have any choice” debate for a different post).
We were walking through the main aisle, past the folks in line waiting to check out. My daughter was at my side. She noticed a little girl sitting in the front of a cart, while her mommy unloaded their supplies. The little girl was cute, but she looked very rough. She had curly blonde hair and blue eyes. She was somewhere between two and three. My daughter was most likely three.
When I say the little girl looked rough, I mean she was dirty. Not “I was playing outside this afternoon” dirty…I mean, deep dirty. Her clothes were grungy. Her hair was matted. Her mother looked the same. I don’t mean this to sound judgmental, but they were clearly impoverished. The mom looked like she’d just had it. With what, I don’t know.
The thing about the little girl that broke my heart was that she looked like she’d had it, too. This less than three year old little girl looked tired. Not from staying up too late or skipping a nap. She looked tired the way her mommy did. Weary; to the bone.
There was absolutely no spark or light in this little girl’s eyes whatsoever.
As I walked past, thinking to myself, “What’s really sad is that she’ll most likely never have that spark. She’ll probably live her whole life without it,” my daughter locked eyes with the little girl. As is often the case with kids this age, they were pretty intrigued by each other. Again, as is often the case at this age, they didn’t quite know what to do about or with each other.
After an awkward pause, my daughter waved. It was a non-committal/non-intrusive kind of a wave. The little girl waved back, with even less enthusiasm than my daughter did.
I wondered if the other little girl wondered why my daughter had some spark in her eyes. Or if she wondered why my daughter’s clothes looked clean and bright.
That little girl did nothing to deserve to feel the way she did. I’m not implying that it’s the fault of her parents, either. Quite in fact, I’m insinuating that this situation, like so many other things in life, is just a zero-sum game. It’s not anyone’s fault. There’s not much anyone can do about it. But, put simply, some folks have it and some don’t. Some folks get it…and that means others don’t.
More than anything, this brief but profound interaction made me realize one very simple truth:
Life is tough.