One of the brothers was wronged by another. He came to Abba Sisoes, saying “My brother has hurt me, and I want to avenge myself.” Abba Sisoes pleaded with him in vain to leave vengeance to God. Finally, Abba said “Brother, let us pray…. God, we no longer need you to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves.” Hearing these words, the brother fell at the Abba’s feet, asking for forgiveness. — The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. Translated by Sr. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Cistercian Publications, Abbey of Gethsemani, KY 1975.
What a scene.
It’s a peak moving out day in our complex. Household belongings, from pillows to pots, are heaped up in the dark in the garbage cage. Once again I’m dragging debris out of bins and re-sorting because once again, people didn’t heed the signs. They threw glass bottles a-smash in the landfill dumpster, disposable diapers in the food compost, and even a plastic infant crib/dresser in the recycle bin, leaving the lid jammed open to the rain — as if plastic furniture is ground up into plastic atoms to clone a fresh new crib. Before moving out these people should have planned ahead, maybe posted this to a giveaway website so some other family could use it.
The open crib drawer has a torn envelope and a note with official agency letterhead, a date several months old. Pounce! As Helen Mirren said (film role Mrs. Porter, “Door to Door,” 2002) “Now I have proof!” A glittering shard of crafty cleverness worms its way to mind, insinuating sweetly that I should take this note to Management, so they can have a parting word with these carefree sorting scofflaws. One triumphant righteous glance at the address, and… it’s a message to this effect. Now that we have taken your baby away to foster care, we have discontinued your medical and maternal benefits. Last year, your child’s father sent you child support for a total of [fillable field] $39.17.
She was our neighbor. She needed help, and now she’s gone. And I’m in a cage with windblown debris under a yellow floodlight. Cradling a letter in hand and rocking back and forth, pulling up the inside of the sweatshirt to wipe my eyes. One baby with no idea where Mom is now. One Mom needing all the maternal benefits and support and care in the world.
Soon the letter is smoothed out, refolded, tucked inside the envelope, put in the closed crib drawer. After some careful dragging around, now the recycling lid will close and shelter the crib as it waits for the truck. Like an emptied fish tank or hamster wheel, but with purple ponies with big eyes frisking around. They look full of fun and ready to play.
Along the path back to the house up the steps and through the trees, the cage floodlight grows fainter and fades out. The rain turns into snow.
What a tender moment you have described with such consideration for your fellow human being who left her child’s furniture out in the rain and snow that day.
O Robb… if we only knew the stories in other people’s lives, maybe it wouldn’t be possible to judge or disapprove of anybody! Something you don’t seem to do anyway…