I remember when I was 5 and my mother and I were walking out of a fast food restaurant and she dropped her Coke on the ground.
Sadness enveloped me.
I remember how excited my mom had been to get this food.
It was rare for us to go to a restaurant.
In fact I can only recall one other time.
I knew she couldn't afford another Coke and I knew the meal wouldn't be as good without it.
I don't think I knew that I knew all this at the time.
I just knew that I felt overwhelming sadness as I stared at the syrup racing toward it's unknown destination, filling crack and crevice as it went.
It seemed to have some place to go and at the age of five I already knew that life was hard.
Someone, taking that in might say that my mother had a weight problem and didn't need fast food and a Coke.
They would have a point.
My mother eventually lost her legs due to her weight issues.
Perhaps this judgmental, hypothetical person would have said that God was knocking the Coke from her hand in an attempt to save her life...
They might say that she should spend that money on buying her son clothes that fit him or put it in a savings account to "better her station" in life, but looking back, I'm not sure my mother could have bettered herself.
I think perhaps she was born on a low rung of society and didn't have the equipment to climb out.
Perhaps it was her destiny to suffer.
This belief terrifies me.
Where is The American Dream in that nightmare?
How does a loving god fit into a world that just isn't fair?
"We hold these beliefs to be self-evident that all men are created equal...."
I want this to be true so badly.
I pray to a god I want to believe in that indeed all PEOPLE are created equal and that I may have eyes to see and ears to hear this epiphany.
But I watch people...and I listen...
And where I live there seem to be a lot of people who have fallen in and can't climb out.
I ask my son about an obese woman we see walking with sandals and no socks.
She is crying.
"What should she do?" I ask him.
He wants to answer. He thinks hard.
"I don't know." he says.
"What should she do?" I ask my daughter.
"Help her!" she screams at me.
"She needs socks." she says.
Looking around for a shop, I do not see one.
Quickly I take my own dirty socks from my feet and put my shoes back on.
"Hey" I say lightheartedly as I get out of the warmth of my car "put these on will yah? You're making me cold just lookin at yah."
She seems distant, but she takes the socks and begins putting them on her swollen red feet.
As she goes to put her sandals back on I realize I haven't thought this through.
Her shoes are flip-flops and you can't put them on over socks.
I actually feel upset that I have to give her one of my favorite pairs of shoes.
And I am even more annoyed at myself for feeling this way.
She never says a word and she doesn't stop crying.
She never even looks at me.
As I drive away, I lecture my kids about how you have to be careful when dealing with the mentally ill, I chastise myself for not feeding her.
I didn't even think about it.
With my feet wet and cold I asked my children "What can that woman do better?"
My son said "Perhaps she is already trying her hardest."
As we drive past an old man we constantly see having heated conversations with himself, my son says "We have been learning about schizophrenia in school. It's like your mind is broken and won't function properly."
There is silence the rest of the way home, but the kids are not looking at their iPhones.
They are looking at the people.
They are seeing the struggle.
As we carry our groceries into our warm house my son says "It's not their fault, but it's not our fault either."
"I know" I say. It is all I can get out, because my voice is cracking.
"What can we do?" my daughter asks.
"I don't know." I say "But we'll figure something out."