This incident sounds like the plot to a really bad movie, but the sad truth is that it happens every day. Many times, people will ignore what is happening in front of them (much like the cashier) and stay out of it because “it’s not my business.” Starting conflict is difficult, but it is easier to just stay quiet and pretend like the issue never happened in the first place. One guy just couldn’t stand the thought of doing nothing, so he acted.
I live in an area with fairly low-priced rentals, so it’s full of college kids and people who are on lower incomes. I was at the corner store and the family in front of me had a case of beer, a 12-pack of Coke, a few packs of cigarettes, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and some milk. Their debit card got denied, so they took out the milk. Got denied again, took out the chicken. Got denied again, took out the mac’n’cheese.
Finally got approved, so they were going home with beer, Coke, and cigs. Their two kids, maybe 4 and 6, asked what they were having for dinner if they didn’t have the chicken nuggets. The mom’s response was, “You can drink Coke, it’s got calories.” The younger kid started crying for the chicken nuggets. The mom grabbed her by the arm and told her she wasn’t getting any dinner.
I bought their chicken nuggets and ran after them. I tried to give them the box, and the mom started screaming at me, “do we look like a f***ing charity case, I can raise my own f***ing kids, you don’t know what it’s like being a mom!” and tons of other lies. I was like, “Just take the damn chicken, your kids are hungry.” The woman hit the box out of my hands and she and her man grabbed the kids and stormed away.
I followed them for a bit and discovered that they lived in one of the apartments down the block. I called child protective services on them that very day and, along with the police and fire department, found that their home was full of drug paraphernalia and other trash and that the kids were basically wallowing in filth. I hope I did the right thing by intervening, but I can’t imagine what would have eventually happened to them if I hadn’t been there to step in.
We have no way of knowing what happened afterwards. We don’t know if the parents cleaned up their act, if the children had other relatives to stay with, or if the kids were split up between foster homes. We do know that, even if it was only one night, they were able to have a hot meal thanks to the intervention of a stranger, and we hope that their lives improved because of it.
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