My blogging cousins, Lisa and Anne Marie, both wrote the most beautiful tributes to their fathers on their blogs today. And since I love both of these men dearly - I was positively verklempt.
As I was reading Lisa's blog about my Uncle Bill, I was reminded of a story I had almost completely forgotten. When Lisa was 16-years old, she received a speeding ticket and had to go to court. Uncle Bill went with her - because he always did whatever he could to help support his children. Or nieces and nephews. Or whomever happened to be lucky enough to be considered a friend to this great man. Borrowing directly from Lisa's post:
As we waited in the court room, there was a young man standing in front of the judge who was in trouble for something pretty minor ... I can't even remember what it was now. The young man was visibly shaking. The judge asked him some questions and then charged him a fine that he could not pay. The judge then gave this young guy jail time because he had NO money.What Lisa forgot to mention in her post is that once Uncle Bill paid this young man's fine, he didn't have enough for hers - so she was put in jail for two weeks.
When my father heard this, he jumped up form his seat and said, "What? You're sending this young kid to jail because he is down on his luck?" The judge asked, "Who are you?" And then she asked the kid, "Do you know this man?"
He said, "No..."
My father was told to sit down. He told the court he would not. He couldn't sit there and listen to the judge send this young man to jail for something so minor and asked how much he owed the court. He also asked if the fine was paid would the young man be free to go? (I can't remember the price of the fine now, but I remember the shaking kid ... I know he was all alone ... and I know he couldn't believe what he was hearing.)
I remember my father approaching the judge and asking if he could stand with this young man and represent him. The kid told my father he could not repay him and my father said he didn't want the money back. I remember my father saying, "I don't care about the money. I have it and I want to pay your fine. I just don't see this happening." He told the kid he wanted him to get in to school and make something out of himself and give "it" back to someone else ... when he could.
Now that I think of it ... he was paying it forward ... way before it was popular.
(No. That didn't really happen. But I nearly cracked up just thinking of it!!)
Lisa's story is a perfect example of my Uncle Bill. He is an extraordinary man who genuinely cares about his fellow man. Whether he knows them or not.
This morning I called Child Protective Services in San Diego. They told me that based on my experience at the park yesterday, I did the right thing in contacting the police. But they too, couldn't understand why the police wouldn't have conducted a more depth investigation as to who this woman was and whether or not she and her son needed help.
So, I hung up from CPS and called the police department.
I spoke to the same dispatcher that I had spoken to yesterday morning. She told me that the police officer had responded to the park and had spoken with the woman. He gave her a warning and said that she needed to get up and watch her child. Then, he left.
When I told her that the woman had laid back down and fallen asleep as soon as he pulled out of the parking lot, she sounded surprised - and sad. She said that what I should have done, is called the police back. Which I didn't do. But in hindsight, I really wish I had.
I also really wish that I had spoken to the woman.
I wish that I had asked her if she was OK and if she needed any help. I wonder if I had spoken with her, mother to mother, woman to woman, if she might have told me what was going on? Perhaps she had just driven all the way to San Diego from Canada. Perhaps she was down on her luck and needed some food. Or, maybe I could have provided her directions to the nearest shelter?
Going forward, if I'm ever in a similar situation again, I will call the police. But, I will also summon whatever courage I can to talk with the person and tell them that I don't see "this" happening. I will tell them that I am worried about them, and their child. And I will not leave until the issue is resolved, even if that means I have to summon the police two or more times.
I never should have walked away yesterday. As soon as I saw it, I was involved. So I should have stayed there and called the police again and I should have talked to the woman and done whatever I could to help her and Joshua.
I should have done more.
Not just because that would have been the right thing to do, but because that's what my Uncle Bill would have done.