Friday, December 18, 2009

You Gotta Have Faith

"What's your name?" the barrista at Naidre's asked the woman in front of me in line.

The woman paused, then came out with it, boldly, like an expression of air after holding her breath for a bit: "Faith," she said.

I looked up at her, then, and smiled. It had seemed a statement of belief, one she had had to gather herself before saying, but, really, it was just her given name. Cool.

"I love your name," I said.

"Thank you," she said, rather shyly.

"Do you like it?" I asked, though it was none of my business.

She paused, as she had before offering her name, in thought. "I didn't use to, but I do now. It took me a while."

It made sense. You can't be given faith by anyone else, you have to come to it yourself, and she had. I gave her a gold star happily. It's so important to appreciate who you are.

After eating my soup and drinking my Matte Latte, I moved on to do some errands. Buying a gift at a great store filled with fragile, original things, I noted a child who had been brought in by her mother against her will. You couldn't help but note her, she was crying and whining and throwing herself about a bit. I was scared for the beautiful bowls that were easily within her reach as she flailed. Apparently, the man behind the counter was also. As the woman went to the counter to purchase something, he made sweet-voiced but pointed suggestions.

"Um, you don't want to touch that, honey," and "OH! Her nose is running..."

I laughed to myself as I chose what I wanted to buy, glad my kids, as rambunctious as they are, are beyond the toddler stage and all that brings, glad, too, they weren't with me to get judged.

As I walked to the counter, after the woman and her daughter had departed, I overheard the man behind the counter speaking to his co-worker.

"It's not the kids, it's the parents..." he said.

Now, I know he wasn't talking about me, but I always take comments on parenting personally because I myself have a few disciplining issues, that is to say, I'm terrible at it. I think a lot of parents are. I feel bad for myself and for these other people, even if we are pathetic. It's not an easy job. I think people should know this.

"Do you have kids?" I asked the man, not unkindly.

He stared straight at me, understanding in a second my thinly-veiled judgment of his judgment. Takes one to know one, I always say. He smiled slightly.

"No," he said, "I am a militant homosexual."

Let's just say I was glad I wasn't drinking anything. It was a full head-back guffaw, the kind, these days, that sends my hand straight into my bag like a Pavlovian response.

"That is awesome," I said. "You get a gold star for that. And, you get a big one, the first one in my new pack," I said, handing over the glittery gold.

He was thrilled, and slapped the big gold star right on his chest, showing his co-worker proudly.

He turned back to me. "Really, I'm not that militant, I love kids, I love my nieces and nephews, it's just, this neighborhood..."

I waved him off. "No need to explain. Do you live around here?"

"No, I just work here." He didn't have to add the "thank God," it was implied.

"Hey, look, I'm with you," I said. "But it's harder than it looks I think, especially if you want your kids to be free spirits...I had a lot of ideas of what I was and wasn't going to do before I had kids, but then in reality it's a lot harder.

He nodded. "It's a fine line, I know," he said.

"It is," I said.

I was just glad to have had the discussion, to have some acknowledgment of parents' plight, even though we all see--and even sometimes are--the kind of parents we hate. I guess all I ever try to do in my conversations and gold-star giving is to see the other side, to get others to engage in that process as well. Really, I think, what I'm doing, is trying to have faith in people and to get others to have some as well. Maybe I should change my name...

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