One should never go shopping on a Saturday. Regardless, we went. To make matters worse, the wife was looking for specific items, has been now for weeks. After three hours of dragging our butt from pillar to post, the stomach starts to complain. It’s been a real zoo out here today so where to eat? Not being too proud by nature, we pulled into the nearest McDonalds.
We stumbled in through the door. Boy, I’ve never seen a McDonalds this small before, or so busy. I’m using my walker because of the oxygen tank, so with the crowd it was difficult to maneuver a path to a booth. Finally I am able to settle down. On looking up I see a baby one booth over in a high chair, staring at me. Babies always seem to do that, don’t they. I guess he was about nine months old.
Elizabeth checked to make sure I was seated ok and then went to line up for our food. The baby meanwhile, continued to eyeball me. Each time he screwed up his face to squawk, this mechanical hand reached out of the booth and fed him. I found it quite comical to watch this less than a year old child, already giving his parents the gears to get what he wanted. I shook my head, there’s just no hope.
While all this had been going on with the baby performance, I couldn’t help but notice a group sat at the tables in the corner to my right. The group consisted of a mother, two boys and a girl. The woman looked to be Asian. The boys looked about five and eight, the girl would be around nine or ten. The mothers face with large almond eyes was time worn. Grey pallor skin reflected a hard led life, to this point at least. She was probably no older than her late twenties, maybe thirty, judging by the ages of the kids. She was dressed most modestly as were the children, quite clean in appearance, yet nevertheless poor by most standards.
I tried not to appear too nosey while I waited for the wife to get back, but I couldn’t help casting a glance unobtrusively first at the baby, then over to the mother and three young kids in corner.
Meanwhile, up at the counter around the corner, where Elizabeth was waiting to get served, you could imagine the noise with all the other kids, the place being so busy. Loud kids, yelling and demanding, “I want this” and “I am going to get that. No that isn’t the toy I want, I want this one!”
All the time the kids at my end of McDonalds were so well mannered and quiet for their mother. They sat there silently, each of them holding just a McFlurry dessert and a plastic spoon.
For herself the mother had an ice cream sundae and a small package of French fries. I watched discreetly, somewhat amazed as the woman doled out two fries to each of the kids, then one to herself. Again she made the rounds with the fries, then she took a taste of her sundae, watching each child in turn and giving them all such a warm sweet smile. Once again she made the rounds with the fries. I never saw so many fries come out of such a small package before. Five fish and two loaves of bread crossed my mind. After the fries were finished she then took her spoon and fed some of her sundae to each child in turn. Not once was there a sound of protest or argument over what was going on.
It was a treat just to sit and see this little miracle taking place. When I looked at the woman she sat there looking as proud as any mother should look, and be dammed to the world looking on.
Once in a while during my life I have seen that proud look before, someone obviously in need but too proud to seek a handout. I sat and watched all this taking place and felt a little guilty when my big Mac and medium fries arrived complete with a chocolate milk drink. I would have willingly put a twenty dollar bill in her hand to help out, but I didn’t want her to think the wrong thing or get my face slapped.
We finished our meal and left to head home. Earlier I had been thinking what a wasted day out, milling around in the zoo of people and coming home empty handed.
One stop in McDonalds changed all that very quickly. What a treat we had been given. What a lesson in human dignity, where being poor didn’t make one hell of a difference to the woman and three kids.
My faith in the future of humanity had just been given a much needed shot in the arm, two fries at a time.