Today on the way home from school I readied my kids for a trip to the bakery by giving them each $2. As I was getting out of my car a woman asked me, “can you give me enough money to buy my kids and I a loaf of bread?” I don’t always give money to the men (it’s usually men) on the corner we pass in our car everyday. They stand on the wrong side of the street for me to give them money–which is a nice excuse for me to avoid deciding if I think I should give them any.
But she asked me on foot and in front of my kids. She was so brave and so polite, standing a safe distance with her hands in her pockets. At first, with iPhone in one hand and credit card in the other, I told her I didn’t have any cash. This is also a convenient excuse.
She said, “Ok thank you. Have a good day.”
What am I to say in response? “You have a great day too?”
I remembered I had a coin purse in my car that had been there since the coin meters were replaced downtown. Money I could put aside and forget about for years.
“Actually, can you wait a second?” I climbed in my car. “Thank you so much,” she responded.
“Do you know what a loaf of bread costs these days?” Because I don’t. I just throw it in my cart (I think to myself).
“I’m sorry but it’s probably over $2.50 at this store. We just moved here and it hasn’t been working out like I hoped.” She kicks the dirt as I search. “My kids and I are staying with my sister but we’re homeless. I tried Family Partnership but they weren’t that helpful.”
I just spent the morning at the Minnesota Legislature on behalf of parents everywhere. I’ve done this kind of work in committees across health, environment and education over the last decade. Today I observed the House Education Innovation Policy Committee. In this moment it hits me that the whole reason I am at the Capitol is to do what I can to make sure money gets put into the hands of the people that need it most.
I have my opinions on how that money should get allocated: early learning scholarships, career and technical education, smaller class sizes, better assessments of student growth, teacher development, concurrent enrollment, American Indian education, special education, free breakfast, help, hellllllpppp HELP!!!!! It is so incredibly complicated.
And here, I almost missed an opportunity to put money directly into the hand of a parent who needed it.
We chatted a bit. I gave her some ideas. Told her not to give up on Minnesota. We take care of our own here.
At least I want to believe that we do. Most days, the truth is, it seems so hard with such limited resources to get the people the help that they need. Sharing is hard work.
I sometimes wonder why I care so much. Why can’t I quit these kinds of jobs and sell cupcakes?
We were watching Star Wars with our kids a few weeks ago when Princess Leia bent down and put the message in R2D2. The Princess. The wise and brave Princess–daughter of a Senator–she would save the world. I loved her. I said to my six year old as we watched together, “I think I’ve always wanted to be Princess Leia.” He looked up at me, “If you are the Princess, I am your clone.”
And when it was over I said to my ten year old, “I’ve been to church, I’ve been to the Capitol, I watch the President on TV, I travel, I search and I wonder, where are the wise people, the great and noble Senate that is trying to save the world? Maybe there isn’t one!” The kid doesn’t skip a beat. “Oh there is, mom, don’t worry. It’s just in a galaxy far far away.”
She turned left to the grocery store with my quarters and we turned right to the bakery. “Oh shoot boys; it’s closed! It wasn’t our turn today.”
In 20 fast steps they catch up to her and give her their $4.00.
Just for a day–the Princess and her clones.
It was so easy.