At the park the other morning, I pulled out Portia’s snack bag as it had been about 1.5 hours from the time she had breakfast, and I knew she would be hungry. Brian and I had just picked up some pastries to nibble on between breakfast and lunch as well.
I had hardly started to unzip the snack bag when 2 small children, I would say around 4 and 2 years old, came and stood silently about an arm’s length from me. As I was sitting on a bench, I was almost face-to-face with the two kids.
I did my usual “Hi… what’s your name? This (waving my hand in my daughter’s direction) is Porta. Say hi Portia.” The little girl (the eldest of the two) mumbled something in the softest and quietest voice I have ever heard and all I caught was ‘Switzerland’. The little boy- her brother?- said nothing. He gave me a little half smile but I quickly realised that his eyes were locked firmly on my hands, which were struggling to open a package of seaweed to give to Portia.
Something felt different.
This wasn’t a typical encounter with playground kids. There’s usually a lot more talking, reaching, and interacting. There’s usually a lot more smiling, because the kids are at the park and that’s a happy place, right?! There’s usually even the out-of-breath-from-running-so-hard requests of “can I have some?”. A curious little toddler wanting in on another curious little toddler’s snacks.
These kids weren’t just ‘wanting in’ on snack time. Their eyes were begging my hands to drop the food into their tiny little palms.
I quickly scanned the area to see where their parents were, so I could do the silent acknowledgment (that I have both given and received multiple times over the past few years) that their children were there with me and not to worry, because I am ‘a good guy’. No one was watching them and no one was watching us- total strangers- about to feed their children. No one was rushing over to us to do the polite jig we parents do in these situations: “Oh my goodness. Sorry! Portia, come, we have our own snacks in our bag. Say thank you anyways.”
I placed a piece of seaweed in the little girl’s hand and she turned and ran. The little boy was still staring at my hands. I followed the girl with my eyes all the way to the frail old man sitting a ways away from us. She gave him the piece of seaweed and he ate it. He didn’t ask where it came from and he didn’t look around to see who had given it to her. He didn’t care… or, it didn’t matter.
The little boy had moved so close to me, he was almost in my lap. The little girl ran back to me and I gave them each their own piece of seaweed. They had never tasted it before, I could tell. They hesitated for not even a split second before both taking slow bites followed by slow chews.
Something was different.
If you have young children, think of what it looks like when you give them a piece of food. If you don’t have young children, picture what the Cookie Monster does when he eats and that is what most toddlers/preschoolers do when they are given a snack. Then, they run off to keep playing. Because that is what you do at the park.
That is not what these two gentle souls were doing at the park.
The difference was ripping my heart to pieces.
It all came crashing down on me and I knew for sure. I quickly offered the girl Portia’s plum, without saying anything to her or to Portia about why I was giving away her snack. Eyes closed, the little girl took a bite. While the juice dribbled down the side of her hand, she extended her arm and gave her little brother a bite. Slow bites. Slow chews. My heart in my full stomach.
We gave the two children all of the snacks we had.
At that moment, I wanted to give them everything I owned… and a hug. Nothing would have been enough. I didn’t want to leave. A thousand thoughts were running through my head. When did they eat last? When will they eat next? How is this happening to these poor little children… and thousands of children in B.C. alone. We are so fortunate to be able to feed our children!
I am not ignorant. I know of the hunger struggles right here in our backyard and all over the world. I have volunteered with at-risk youth and underprivileged children for the past 13 years. I watch the news and have friends who devote themselves in incredible ways… and I hear the stories they tell.
But it was the silent plea of those two little ones yesterday that sent Perspective and Reality crashing down on me.
As I drove home with a heavy heart, wondering what I can do to help, from the backseat my 2.5 year old said, “Mommy, I shared my snacks with that boy and that girl.”
We had helped. Maybe just a little, but that little may have been just enough, for just that moment.
I hope things will someday be different.
Nice to meet you! I'm Jessica a.k.a North Shore Mama. This site was born out of my love for my daughters and the desire to share my motherhood journey with fellow moms. I believe we're all in this craziness called 'parenthood' together and North Shore Mama is my way of reaching out to anyone who needs a laugh, a cry or dinner inspiration. Thank you so much for reading!
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