You need help, was all he said. Not a question, a statement.
I had just come home from visiting a dear friend, and was making three trips from the curb to the car to the house–taking in emptied garbage cans, my purse, etc. I think I was limping a bit, leftover injury that’s so much better now, but still a limp at times.
He was a boy of 11-13, just riding his cool stingray bike around the block, around, around, around. I noticed him circling, looking bored. He seemed to be new to the neighborhood. Maybe he was checking out the middle school nearby.
After my second trip, a wheel on one of the garbage cans fell off.
You need help, he said, loud enough for me to hear him. No yelling. No gestures that would raise alarm. He stayed on his bike. A kid.
You need help.
You need help?
No, thanks, thanks a lot though. You getting ready to go back to school?
Yeah, he said, sounding a bit sad.
And he rode off.
In another world, I would have said thank you , what’s your name, here’s $5 to carry this stuff in for me.
In this world, I wish I could have told him, someone taught you manners, and that’s great. But in this world, young men might best be taught–don’t talk to women you don’t know for it scares them and we women tend to mistrust many males, even boys of 12-13.
And as a teacher, I would be very reluctant to accept help from ANY youngster not known–and I mean parents knowing ME.
If I see him again when I’m with the Big Guy, I will say hello and thank him for the offer.
But in this sanitized and isolated suburbia, we pay for help we cannot do ourselves. There is no community. None. We are advised to socialize out back, not in front. Nothing in front of the houses. No bikes, no lawn furniture.
Make it look like no one lives here but trees and shrubs and garbage cans.
I think I’m right that this was a boy who was taught to help the elderly.
Lesson learned, we are no longer than country.
We are the country of no guns allowed signs on schools, churches, etc.
We are the country of ever smaller nuclear families.
We are the country of cars and garages and where simple courtesy can be seen as dangerous. By children or adults.
It made me glad somehow that he asked, nonetheless. I salute your parents for teaching you manners. I hope I thanked you with a sincere smile; I didn’t have the heart to tell this middle-schooler that we just are not friendly to strangers.
I did look for this boy, but I never saw him again. I hope he is still willing to help out older folks, and hope his heart is still so good.