Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Distracted Moment

Tip for moms who cut their kids' hair: don't look away from your work.

#5 has needed a haircut for about two weeks.  Despite the Sunday morning rush to get everyone ready for Church, dinner in the slow cooker, lunch in tummies, and a bit of cleaning before hosting the extended family this evening, I thought it would be a good time to take care of the hair.  I may have overestimated my delegation skills as a mom.

You see, my nieces and nephew were spending the weekend with us, and nine kids apparently put me over the top.  I had assigned out sandwich making, sweeping, and laundering Niece 3's peed-in skirt and shoes so they would be clean and mostly dry before heading to Church in 71 minutes.  I had done a pretty good job with the haircut to this point.  I set down the clippers to check my work.  As I ran my fingers through #5's hair, I noticed a chunk near the front that had eluded the cut.  As I reached for the clippers, I looked up to see who was crying or maybe to yell at someone.  I don't remember.  It's all a blur now.  While still dealing with said blur, I set the clippers to his head, and noticed they were tugging against my efforts.  Returning my attention to the work at hand, I discovered that the clipper length guide was no longer attached and I had shaved a two-inch-long rectangle down to the scalp.  My girls gasped.  #5 started crying.  The rest of the children came running when they heard #s 1 and 4 trying to reassure him that it didn't look that bad.  I considered buzzing the rest of his hair, and then remembered that his school uniform policy prohibits such a cut.  I accepted that he would just have to wear my mistake until it grows out.

So I gave up and just put away all the hair cutting tools.  As his sisters consoled my tearful boy, I realized he was crying from pain, as he had no idea yet what his hair looked like.  Those clippers had really tugged at his hair!  So I rubbed his scalp, blew the hairs off his face and neck, and sent him to the shower to rinse.  When he was done with his shower, he came to tell me that he actually likes this haircut.  "It's really unique!" he said.  I'm glad he likes it.  I'm also glad Nephew loaned #5 the Lego tie for Church, as it helped to distract from his bald patch--maybe.

How ironic that my only child to never cut his own hair had it ruined by the family hairstylist.  For the record, though, after taking #5's picture, I remembered that I had skipped the last part of the cut where I clean up the front.  So yes, I shortened those weird, long hairs on his forehead.

Panhandling in Provo

It seems the face of begging in our fair city has changed.

It is not unusual for me to see one or maybe two homeless people asking for help as I exit the grocery store or head downtown for a dinner out.  All my life I have seen beggars with dirty faces and grimy coats sitting dejectedly with a cardboard sign reading, "Homeless.  God bless."  The entirety of their belongings are usually piled in a shopping cart or tied to a sleeping bag nearby. 

As I drove around on a few errands yesterday though, I saw five different panhandlers.  That number alone was a little surprising.  What I found shocking enough to keep thinking about it today is that not one of those people fit the description above.

No one had piles of belongings, let alone a coat on the ground beside them.  Were these fair-weather beggars?  Did they wait for warm temperatures before leaving their house to try their luck on the street?  Three of the beggars fit the dirty description, wearing old T-shirts and ratty jeans.  I did notice a grocery sack and a Super Big Gulp resting beside one man.  (It's a good thing this isn't New York.  That man could have lost his last soda!)  >Sorry.  I couldn't resist one snide remark.<

The one thing all five beggars had in common was the cardboard sign.  But not one of their signs tweeted a story of an injured vet, a wandering traveler, or simple homelessness.

There was one young man who looked like a UVU student.  (I would have guessed BYU, except for his beard.)  He was clean cut and dressed like any of the other 65,000 students in our area.  The only thing to set him apart from his classmates was the cardboard sign he held asking for money.

Then there was the man who looked to be about my age and about my economic status.  With his ball cap, sunglasses, and ear buds, I would have guessed that he just walked out of a sporting event.  The only indication that he needed money was his sign.  It read, "Obama gave me this job!"  He saw me glance at his sign and then look away as I waited in my van at a stop light.  When his clever Obama tactic didn't work, he flipped the cardboard over and nonchalantly waved it to catch my attention.  The reverse side read, "Down on my luck.  Could use some green."  Cute.  A beggar using the holiday for his appeal.

Like I said, these people have been in my head ever since.

My initial reaction was that they all seemed to be able bodied.  Why couldn't they go out and beg for a job?  What happened to the signs that read "Will work for food"?  Maybe Elizabeth Smart's story ruined that tactic in Utah.  Still, I actually found myself getting angry when the driver of a car in front of me handed some bills to one of these guys, followed by a pedestrian who went out of his way to hand the same guy all his spare change before crossing back to the sidewalk he had been treading.  I had hoped that someone would direct that man and his colleagues to the Food and Care Coalition, which was an easy walk away.  I've toured their facility where they provide food to any who come in, free rooms, haircuts, and job leads to homeless people.

I remembered that my tour of their facility had also consisted of a bit of education about homelessness, including the fact that most homeless people struggle with drug addiction or mental illness.  I have no way of knowing if the able-bodied men and women I saw yesterday face those devils in their lives.

Surely, though, the man with the ear buds could have found a job.  His clever signs, citing the bane of most voters in this county, and referencing the current holiday for those who turned out to be Democrat, indicated some level of education.  I found myself wondering why he hadn't sold whatever device his ear buds were plugged into before humiliating himself with begging on the street.  Did he have a family and a house and had possibly run out of unemployment checks?  Why didn't he simply respond to one of the several Help Wanted signs I saw in my errands yesterday?  Was he hoping that someone would recognize his wit and offer him something better?

Joseph Smith, as quoted by Hugh Nibley in Approaching Zion, said, "It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition."  I've long believed this as a true principle.  I can't judge others as I don't know their circumstance.  All I know is they want my help.  But I admit that last year when I offered the leftovers of a restaurant meal that I couldn't finish to a beggar in Salt Lake City, it really bugged me that he turned me down and said he didn't want my food.

So while it might be good to feed impostors, is there a better approach?  I appreciate Provo City's stance that panhandling is not a good answer, and that responding with spare change doesn't help the problem for the beggar in the long run.  I like the signs posted downtown by the Community Resource Officers (see above), and often wish that I had business cards with the address to the Food and Care Coalition and the phone number for the United Way.  That is one hand out I would actively give.

What's your answer?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mourning the Present

It may seem like an exercise in ridiculousness, but this week I've found myself wishing the present weren't so fleeting.

In church last Sunday, I watched the teenagers that I had taught in Primary (youth Sunday School in the LDS Church) when they were turning ten.  They are now on the brink of graduation, serving missions, and going to college.  Later, at a youth fireside that evening I watched--and yes, intervened--as one of my former Bear Den Cub Scouts flirted openly with my almost-13-yr-old daughter.  "Wait!  When did he get taller than me?!" I thought.  "Can he really be in high school already?"

For almost a decade now, we've lived in a neighborhood that embraces the proverb that "it takes a village to raise a child."  As these kids grow up and move on, I feel a little bit like some of my own apron strings are being severed.  I felt sad thinking that these young adults that I've watched grow up will soon be starting adult lives of their own, marrying and raising children of their own.  They will no longer be a part of my immediate neighborhood family.

And so I've turned my attention to my own children's rapid growth.  Doing so has given me more joy in the little moments, while also wishing I could hang on to those moments a little longer.

Where I used to be annoyed each spring by the mud tracks and trails of sand brought in by my kids after an afternoon playing in the adjacent field, this week I just laugh and tell my son he has become the superhero known as Dirt Man.  (It helps that I've learned to shake out all his pockets before tossing them in the washer.)

Instead of getting annoyed that Jedi Dirt Man has once again left his crusty socks on the porch as a greeting to visitors, now I just stop and take a picture.

I do the same when I find my teenager draped on the couch for an afternoon nap with a pointless TV show still running on the cell phone.

(I knew she was in a deep sleep when I lifted the phone and she didn't even stir.)

With yesterday's high pressure and warm temperatures, my kids thought summer had come.  I came home to find #3 and her friend running a lemonade stand, #5--aka Dirt Man--shirtless and digging a "swimming pool" in the field, and #s 2 and 4 running around in their swimsuits with friends.

Life is good, but as my new gray hairs will attest, it is running by on little feet way too quickly.