Monday, August 20, 2012


Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. ~Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (introduction), 1982.

"Unwanted subject."

Dispatch sent my friend to the call, and I volunteered to help. A woman complained to the calltaker that two men were refusing to leave her apartment. She requested help in sending them on their way.

More times than not the act of calling the police motivates the unwanted to vanish before we arrive. Often, avoiding some sort of complication - the person has a warrant for their arrest and would prefer not going to jail - becomes a singularly advantageous outcome. Other times, the dope in their pocket calls out to make haste. Finally, some people are downright antisocial.

We arrived, knocked on the door, and a young woman answered. The men were gone, she said. Entering with permission, we confirmed that she was alone with her toddler.

The apartment was devoid of furniture, save a bed, dresser and pack-n-play for the child. A TV sat on the living room floor. Boxes of cereal were arrayed neatly atop the refrigerator, kitchen utensils arranged logically on a clean counter. The young lady didn't have much, but what she did have gleamed. We asked her why she'd called.

She explained that the apartment, an attractive one bedroom ground-floor home in a neat complex, was paid for by the state under a program to house needy families. In addition, she received Social Security disability for several mental and emotional health issues. "It's sort of easy to get," she remarked.

The males who left were the baby daddy of her son, and a friend of his. They'd spent the night - probably against the rules - and an argument had erupted in the morning. When she picked up her phone, they booked their asses out the door.

My friend knew her, had dealt with her before. He couldn't place her, and she wouldn't help. Her reluctance was understandable. Often, in the throes of life crisis, people are not at their best and don't wish to be reminded later on by large, mostly dispassionate male police officers. Remembering was irrelevant, anyway.

Properly admonished about allowing baby daddy to make her life a living hell...again...she sheepishly agreed. Her baby's life didn't need the turmoil.

We turned to leave. She put the child on the recently-vacuumed floor and cooed "Are you ready for breakfast?"

What's to become of this young lady and her adorable baby? Not a lot of education, probably rudimentary job skills, some mental health issues. A child to care for, the father a deadbeat gang member. Throwaways?

She lives simply, in a clean apartment. The government - that is, those of us fortunate enough to thrive in this society - provides a minimal but sufficient safety net for this tiny family. If she stays away from alcohol and drugs, finds some kind of employment and....

The odds are stacked against this young mother and the innocent little man we left sitting on the floor, big smile on his face. It was time for breakfast!


  1. But just supporting them and giving them a place helps only in the short run. Ideally, to me, training for a good job and a better life would benefit this tiny family more than just a handout.

  2. True, True, True!!!! A roof, stability and a chance is what she is getting short term. In the end, a lot is up to her. I felt horrible walking out of there, and at the same time comfortable that she was a mother who loved her baby desperately and would do anything for him. Maybe that anything is to build a life for herself.

  3. What bothers me is that the tax exempt Churches, and charities are not stepping up to the plate to give her, and the child the personal care and guidance they need.

  4. Excellent point. As a practical matter, interviewing her on that subject is beyond our scope, but sometimes people will volunteer that kind of information. The bigger picture point - government has sometimes had to step in when communities do not - is well taken.