A couple of the newcomers at Howie’s on a recent Tuesday night appeared to be in their 20s, with several others in their 30s, reminding me that one of the great things about our Mission Dharma meditation group is how people of all ages attend, our biggest success when it comes to diversity. At least one person in the group has been tweeting about our weekly gathering, and that’s probably why younger people are coming. Various genders are represented (primarily the conventional two), and there appear to be gay and straight people and who knows what else?, but the crowd is largely, though not entirely, white, so it’s good that we’ve got people from 20ish to 70+.
On a walk not long ago, I came upon a mother in her 30s carrying a small child and walking next to another of about four, both girls, charmingly attired in colorful old-fashioned dresses. The mother was evidently trying to explain to the four-year-old why her younger sister had received something while she had not. The mother finally said, loudly and firmly, “Let me tell you something. There are going to be many times in life when you don’t both get something.” I couldn’t hear any response at all, but the mother evidently picked up something that qualified as whining, and she roughly yanked the child’s arm to turn her around and nearly yelled, “You’re making a big fuss over nothing!”
It was awful. I don’t think a statement that a person three feet away can’t even detect qualifies as a big fuss, and couldn’t this mother understand how it might feel to have a sibling seemingly favored? I can assure you there is nothing more terrible.
I felt like I should say something, but what? My inclination was to say, “You know, when I see an adult touch a child in that way, it makes me wonder if I should call Child Protective Services.” This was right on the street, with many people around—what happens when no one is watching? It really put a knot in my gut, but I didn’t say anything, except that when I went past them, I looked at the mother and kind of went, “Whoa,” just to let her know someone had noticed. They happened to follow me into the post office and were behind me in line, and when I left, I smiled at the older girl, who looked pretty sad, as you might imagine.
I know there’s no excuse for domestic violence, but was this domestic violence? When I was a child, it was perfectly acceptable for an adult to administer a spanking, but beyond a handful of spankings with fair warning (“You’re going to get a spanking!”), I don’t remember any adult ever yanking my arm or doing anything to cause physical distress. Being thwacked on your butt with the back of a hairbrush is not going to injure you (not saying it’s enjoyable), but having your arm wrenched hard enough might.
I may have mentioned that in our neighborhood there’s an older man who shuffles slowly up and down the sidewalk, determined not to lose the ability to walk. Several weeks ago, he ended up in the hospital, and Joe at the corner store later reported that he’d gone on to a care facility in San Rafael, and probably would never return home. He lives with roommates, and if he is unable to get to the store and back, he would be unable to continue that arrangement.
But a few weeks later, Joe said Fidel would be coming home, after all, and one day not long ago, there he was! I was delighted to see him, looking a bit skinnier, but up on his pins, and now speaking only Spanish, whereas he used to also speak a bit of English. We conversed as best we could. I’ve given Joe my phone number in case Fidel needs help. I don’t have time for a lot of extra cooking, but I could certainly go to the store for him and carry things up to his place.