“I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t have any cash right now.” My go-to line for dismissing a panhandler. Usually works.
“I don’t NEED money.”
“What do you need?”
Right then in my neighborhood grocery-store parking lot, at dusk on a Monday, a little switch flipped in my new-dad brain. And there was nothing my practical, logical, jaded superego could do to stop what was about to happen.
In order to help you understand what it felt like, here’s an obnoxiously cute baby photo:
Take all the time you need.
I made this the wallpaper on my phone. Terrible mistake. I get all melty when I see it. Half the time, I forget what I was about to use the phone for in the first place. This is the reason it’s taking me so long to respond to your texts.
Parking-lot lady was very specific. Her babies had diaper rash. They needed Huggies. Size 4. The big box. And some wipes.
As she was telling me all this, a man shuffled up looking like he wanted to clean my windshield. I didn’t even let him speak. “Can’t you see I’m talking to this woman?”
She insisted on hugging me.
I came out of the store carrying Huggies and some gentle-looking wipes. The woman pulled a shopping cart from the cart return and told me to load up the diapers. “Let me carry them to the van for you,” I insisted, but the woman said her van was at another grocery story two miles away.
As the lady wheeled the cart away, my superego kicked back in and insisted I had been conned. Why would this woman be begging for diapers outside one grocery store when her children and their dirty diapers were waiting at another? She said she was from out of town, but how did she know the area so well?
None of those suspicions mattered at the time. When the woman said she had kids in a van who needed diapers, I thought of my boy at home and melted a little. Having a baby makes you soft.
The $23 isn’t a huge loss, but I feel like I shouldn’t be so reckless now that I’m not working. It also bothers me that I rewarded what seems to be an invasion of bums at my nearest shopping center. I assume she took the diapers to another store and returned them for cash.
Maybe some of that money helped this woman’s children live a little better for a while. Every time I get lost in ridiculously cute pictures of my baby boy — every time I hug him, every time he smiles or almost laughs at me — I can come a little closer to believing I did a good thing that night.