Yesterday E. and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood with Baby E and get some ice cream. While sitting outside at one of the patio tables a little guy darted past us, kind of acknowledged E, and went into the store. E called after him to come back and say hi “for real.” “In a minuuuute” was the response. “Who is that?” I asked. “That is a kid that comes by the church a lot, he’s in second grade and causes all sorts of problems,” E responded.
Soon, Little Guy came out, leaned against the stroller and started to talk away. In the middle of his thoughts he told us he was hungry because he hadn’t gotten lunch that day. When we asked where his family was he said they had gone to do some things and had left him. We asked him where the friends he normally hangs out with were and he said, a bit dejectedly, “they’re all with their moms.”
As I sat there listening to Little Guy I thought about how he had been left to handle himself, to walk around the neighborhood on his own, and how he was hungry. He even knew something wasn’t quite right by the way he told us that all of his friends were “with their moms” and his mom had gone to do something without him. For being the tough, trouble making kid headed for the street there was still such a small little boy in him wanting to be taken care of.
“Let’s go get you lunch,” E said. On the way to a nearby restaurant Little Guy chatted and asked questions – who could run fast, how tall we thought he would grow, and what was faster – a turtle or a snail. While E bought Little Guy lunch I stayed outside with Baby E so we didn’t have to navigate the small restaurant with a stroller, Little Guy sat in the booth at the window while E ordered. As I rocked the stroller back and forth, I looked up to the window. Little Guy was sitting on a stool, his chin propped on his hand just staring at me. When we made eye contact he gave me a big grin. Soon after E came out and we were on our way, leaving Little Guy to enjoy his lunch with instructions to head home after. As we left, Little Guy gave a big wave to both of us.
Often it is easy to see the guys on the corners in our neighborhood, or the images of them in the news and picture just the tough gang banger. What struck me yesterday was Little Guy’s initial description from E – tough, causing lots of issues, headed for the streets. Then, while talking with him we saw the little boy in him just wanting to be listened to and taken care of. It got me thinking what the older guys in the neighborhood were like when they were younger, when they were second graders.