Empowering

2

September 17, 2022- O checked out every empty chair in the laundromat lounge, and decided to sit in the seat next to me. From that point, he spoke of a variety of things, from the viewpoint of a 5-year-old. He began to examine my ragged laundry basket, and was not satisfied until the torn plastic was at least tentatively reconnected. He then looked at the small flyer for Kids’ National Geographic, commenting on the snow leopards whose photo was on the front of the flyer. He proudly told me that he was now in Kindergarten.

As I was reading my National Geographic, in between his making comments and my asking him guiding questions, O went to the laundromat’s book shelf and brought a Sesame Street book, which he thumbed through and made comments. He returned the book and brought back a story about a girl and her boots, again thumbing through and making comments about the expression on the girl’s face (“She sure looks mad!”) and remarking that her pulling her socks on from the top was a good way to tear them. I agreed, saying that socks have to be put on from the bottom up, gradually and making sure that the fabric was smooth, as one went along.

He watched how I was folding some items that had finished drying, until his mother said she was ready to leave. He bid me goodbye, and while she apologized for his chattiness, I said it was okay. Children’s curiosity and observations are most often priceless, and each of us who encounters them has a chance to be encouraging. Besides, I invariably find the observations of children delightful.

Somewhat later, a young woman who had been mildly injured was lugging a bulky amplifier from the room where her friend’s band had been playing. I held the door open, as I would for anyone in that circumstance. She said “Thaaannk you”, more in frustration at not being left to handle it herself, than out of any impoliteness. That struck me-How often are children and teens disempowered, or discouraged from doing things themselves, out of a genuine desire by adults to keep them from harm? How often are things done FOR people, in ways that do not prepare them for life’s vicissitudes?

Earlier in the afternoon, I was at an event called Stand Down for Veterans. At this event, homeless veterans are provided with bedding, clothing, camping gear and toiletries to help them prepare for winter. I was at a Red Cross table, this year, handing out comfort kits, which have become a common tool among service agencies, having been first offered by the ARC in the 1990s. The thrust of Stand Down is to provide a base for men and women to get themselves back on track. Haircuts, technical and legal advice are among the services that the event offers.

Society only benefits from efforts to empower people, regardless of their ages and circumstances.