My store is small and has only been opened a short while, I am just entering the third week of business in fact. Things have been slow, as expected during the start up process and with the store being located off of the main street, I need something that shouts hey over here.
I purchased some helium balloons from the dollar store to attract attention to the front of the store. They tend to draw your eye and say hey, there is something here worth checking out. And even if the parents don’t notice, kids love balloons and tend to point them out where ever they are and often want to make sure they aren’t missing out on anything fun that might be going on.
Moments ago, a man and a woman, and a young child about 6 or 7 walked past, and as they did the young boy stopped to look at the balloons. They didn’t peek in to find out if I sold balloons or even to see what we did sell. The mother quickly took her cigarette and burnt the ribbon holding the balloon to the sign and handed it to the child.
Instantly I was angry, I paid for that balloon…it belongs to me and I am not done with it yet and I was ready to shout down the street and dive into a lecture about stealing…but in a split second I realized this really wasn’t what upset me, What bothered me was how nonchalantly she took the balloon, and how the child accepted it without either of them giving a thought to whether it was morally right or wrong. I thought this child is learning that if you are quick enough and no one sees you its ok to take what you want. I felt a hitch in my chest. If I ran out and shouted, would they run, would they laugh, and if I didn’t say anything at all would they even give today’s events a second thought.
They hadn’t even gotten as far as the corner when I went to the safety of my doorway stuck my head out and calmly said that I would get them a longer ribbon so the balloon wouldn’t blow away.
The woman stopped dead in her tracks, I wonder what must have went through her mind, The boy looked up, sensing that this wasn’t a scenario that his guardian had prepared for.
I ducked back into my store (lest there be gun fire) and got a long piece of ribbon to offer the child.
When I came back out the group had moved back towards the store.
The female apologetic, stumbling on her words, “but…I… he really just wanted the balloon” … wanted to sarcastically say…”asking would have been nice” but instead I quickly replied “I understand, and that is why I want him to have a longer ribbon because it would be a shame if he lost it.” She offered her thanks and I tied the longer ribbon to the balloon, and she reminded the boy to do the same. Then they walked on.
I know this is an interchange that only lasted a few moments but the thoughts it has left me with seem endless.
Have we gone so far as a society that everyone thinks they are so badly done to that they need to behave like Robin Hood? Taking from the rich, just because they feel that they are poor? I can say with certainty that I am not rich, not even close. And people are not always as poor as they would lead themselves to believe. (But that is another post all together)
What really tugs at me is that I am sure this isn’t the first time that child has witnesses this type of “entitlement” behaviour and my reaction to it could have reinforced the notion that people who they perceive to have more, are greedy and unsympathetic to the wants or needs of others who perceive themselves as having less.
In my case, I’d like to think that there is a fair way to share what you have with those that want those same things. Be it giving a child a balloon, sharing a skill, reaching out to someone, or selling items at an affordable price. But what needs to be done is working together to find that common ground. Sometimes its ok to take a loss if there is a bigger gain further down the road.
You may say I’m a dreamer…..but I’m not the only one. My only hope that the child took something more away from the incident today than just a balloon