Questions, Questions

Posted on June 19, 2004 by Sara Hickman. | 2 Comments

A young woman, perhaps 18, shows up on my doorstep today with a heavy backpack, sweet smile, and ponytails. We start talking, and I ask her what she is selling. She says books. I say, “Oh, yes, I bought some last year. Are you selling them to help with your college tuition?” She says, “Yes!” I tell her they are beautiful books, but since I already bought the entire set last year for my kids, I don’t need anymore.

I sense that she is tired. I ask her if she would like something to drink, to come inside and cool off. Her name is Lindsey.

Once inside, I ask her more about this summer job, walking neighborhoods, selling books. I ask her how she gets around, how long are her hours? You will not believe this…

She is from Indiana. She is here in Austin, staying with a host family (!), working 13 1/2 hours EACH DAY, MONDAY-SATURDAY, with only Sundays off!!!
She rides a bike around, carrying a map, going door to door, selling. I ask her if she has a cell phone? No. I ask her does anyone know where she is while she is out? No. I ask her, “What happens if you are in trouble, or need help?” She just smiles. I feel the motherly panic in my chest.

I gently inquire about siblings, parents. Does she miss them? From her quiet smile, and mumbling, I gather things are hard back home. She is only allowed to speak with her mom once a week, on Sunday nights, but since her mother works on Sunday nights, she hasn’t had a chance to talk to her in the month she has been in Austin. The lump in my throat is growing. She has 7 1/2 weeks of working left.

I write my name and number on a piece of paper. I ask her to call me, for any reason, at any time, and I will help her, if she should find herself in need. She thanks me, and says she is glad to know of my offer, tucking the paper in her pink fanny pack.

Later that evening, hours after she has left, as my husband and I are reading bedtime stories to the girls (and our visiting nephew), I think I hear a knock at the front door. I excuse myself, and find Lindsey behind the glass. She needs to meet her ride back to the host house by 9:45, up a hill and at a local school: Lance puts her bike in our station wagon and takes her to the location.

I’m reading with the kids, and as we finish…we have a big, group hug. I look at my children and want to keep them safe. I want them to know that if they ever needed help there would be someone to offer a phone number, a cool glass of water, a safety net.

I get so disappointed, and angry, seeing how values have changed in our world.
I get disappointed in myself for the times I have let others down, whether on stage or in my personal life. Every day I make time to pray for the chance to be a better person, to see a need and fulfill it, to pick up that piece of errant trash at the park and walk to the garbage can and leave it in it’s proper place…

I think of that commercial from so long ago…The beautiful Indian sitting on his painted pony…looking out over the landscape of this amazing country…and the tear falling, slowly, down his proud cheek.

As they shot that commercial, I bet the director didn’t even need to ask for the man to cry. I bet that man felt it in his soul: the passing of care into greed, the passing of clouds into pollution, the passing of children’s laughter into gun shots.

How can a company send young teenagers out into the streets of an unknown city? (Get ready: I’m about to rant!)

How can a city allow children to be exploited by drugs, sex and abuse?
How is it the people who make up a city aren’t marching to their city council and saying, “ENOUGH!” Why is it weird to care and not wierd to be careless? Why can the grocery sacker at a store ask me, “Dude…plastic or paper?” and not think he sounds rude? How is John Kerry any different from George Bush?
Show me. Talk to me. Use your passion. Show me you care. Speak to me from your heart.

J. Allen Hansley, the wonderful photographer from Dallas, recently fell to the ground, stranded, from either a seizure or an annuerism (spelling?)…Did anyone stop to help? No, people walked AROUND him. WHAT?!

Richard Troxell just took a group of protesters (homeless people, themselves!) to speak out in front of a Wal-Mart (Target?) against the “Homeless Bashing” video. The head of the company phoned to say, “Ok, we’ll take it out of the stores.” YES!! But…

WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THIS WORLD??? Who the heck would WANT that video…who the heck got away with TAPING IT…and who the heck would say, “Oh, sure, I’ll make duplications for you!” AND WHY would any distributor say, “Great! We’ll stock it for you in national chains!”

Has the world gone INSANE? Look, there may be times someone thinks, “Oh, whatever…it’s just one gum wrapper…” Well, I want you to know I’ll be the one picking up your damn wrapper. And I’m not alone. I realize that trash has to go somewhere…not just in a trash can…but from the trash can to a trash dump…then where does all that go? Into a mound under the ground…and that creates run off into our water sources…and who drinks the water? We do.
Our children do. So, maybe having the trash above ground isn’t that big of a deal. Here’s the deal: Give me a politician who WANTS THE WORLD TO BE RUN IN AN HONEST, ENVIRONMENTALLY ADVANCED BIG PICTURE LONG TERM GOALS WAY. (Al Gore was waaaaay ahead of his time. Sorry, Al. It totally sucks what happened to you. Totally.)

Then, and this is just one example of our carelessness, we wonder why people get sick. Why they end up in hospitals. And when they are sick, they can’t work. But why would they want to work? They are working for $5.15 an hour, 13 1/2
hours a day, never seeing their children, barely making ends meet, living in
housing with no air conditioning. Neighborhoods with no pride, with bullets whizzing, coked up neighbors. Or, maybe they work hard and live in neighborhoods where doors stay closed, and no one knows each others names because their kids are sitting in front of a t.v. all day, buying into the system of “I WANT THAT!” and “I NEED THAT!”…where no one is talking WITHIN the home because they are not challeged to think and process and communicate.

So, we get sick. And then we have no way to pay for the doctor, the hospital.
Those who can pay taxes, we pay for that coverage. But we also pay for the schools, the roads, the politicians who have retired and are drawing ridiculous pensions.

And, here comes a girl on my front porch who wants to go to college to become a French teacher and I just want her to be safe and have a job that doesn’t have her covered in sunburn and mosquito bites.

What do I do? I do what I did. And you do your part, and you speak out and you move mountains by starting the avalanche.

Go, team, go! SPEAK OUT. Do not be afraid! Look at what we’ve got to lose…

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2 responses to “Questions, Questions”

  1. Big Jim says:

    You are right on about the book-selling thing! I almost got suckered into taking a job for this publishing company when I was in college, only to find out at the last minute that if I didn’t sell books, I got paid zero-zip-nada!
    It was the same situation you describe – live with a host family, go out every day and try to sell books in the heat of the summer.
    Thank you for a great post!

  2. Holly says:

    All I can say is AMEN.

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