Yesterday, at Westfield, I saw something that I hope to never see again.
A woman up ahead caught my attention because I noticed what she was wearing. It was the kind of thing I wanted to buy for work; a long dress, bright, comfy and most importantly, easy to wear.
Her hair was tied back casually and her two gorgeous boys, around 7 and 10, were beside her, both wearing caps, with the cutest of cute rats tails, poking out beneath them.
All seemingly fine, all seemingly normal.
There were small groups of people however, gathered, whispering quietly and pointing rather discreetly and I could tell all was not right in Westfieldland that day. I can speak Greek and by sheer coincidence, I overheard the word, έκλεψε, meaning, ‘she stole’.
I followed the gaze of the crowd to the Mum in the nice dress. To her left there was a police officer, escorting her along gently and walking slightly ahead there was another, rubber gloves on, carrying a well-worn handbag and two new colourful backpacks, the tags still dangling off the zippers.
My first thought: What the fuck?
What kind of a country do we live in if a Mum has to shoplift and quite possibly, enlist her kids to do the same?
My intuition however, told me I was not looking at a career criminal. My gut and those tags on the backpacks, spelled that this poor woman has two kids about to return to school and doesn’t have the cash to get them the shit they need.
My heart bled.
I wanted to run up and plead with the police, ‘Here’s fifty bucks for the bags, just let her off!”
Of course I didn’t. Instead, I left the huddled whispers and turned down the corridor to my car, away from this undeserving Mum, her two deprived kids and their bleak immediate future.
I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was probably charged with shoplifting and now, would have to come up with money, that she didn’t even have in the first place, to pay for court costs and fines, not to mention the costly and inconceivable humiliation to be endured from her family.
And her kids. All kids deserve to start the year free of anxiety, with fresh stationery, a clean uniform and a bag for all their gear. A student’s job is to learn at school, not worry about whether Mum or Dad can afford their equipment.
As a Teacher, it would be unethical for me to write specifically about some of the situations I have seen. But I will say this. There are students who have nothing. No pens, no lunch, no uniform. They don’t have rulers, or calculators, so they can’t do Maths. They don’t bring books, so their reading and comprehension is lacking. They don’t have the right shoes on, so for their own safety they can’t do Science or TAS (Home Science/Industrial Arts). They are a little unkempt, so they may be bullied and at times they may bully others.
You can spot this kid in a room of 30 students and it is always heart breaking.
With another school year on the horizon, I’m going to be more attentive to this plight than ever before. I’ve already gathered up a big box of spare pens and stationery and I’ll be leaving it on my desk for the year.
I take it for granted that I can run over to Westfield and buy whatever my kids need. Undies, socks, school supplies, a cheap toy as a special treat but I wonder, how many other Mums, like the one I saw, are forced to shoplift basic items, like a backpack for their kids.
I’ll be taking my box load of stationery to school on Tuesday.
It would be very cool if you can look around at the things you don’t need and do the same.
Flogging my Blog, #FYBF, over at With Some Grace