It was the onset of the stay-at-home orders set forth by Governor Wolf and I found myself on a Monday afternoon in need of running an errand— going to the bank. My middle school-aged daughter jumped at the chance to join me and to escape from our house, even for a short ride.
As we left the bank drive-through, she anxiously asked where else can we go. I told her we should be good citizens and do as the governor ordered and not make any unnecessary trips. She begrudgingly agreed with me. But, that didn’t mean we have to go the short way home!
Our zigzag ride took us down some streets we hadn’t travelled in awhile. The empty streets provided a bleak canvas which prompted us to ask questions – How long has that office building been vacant? What do you think happened to the businesses that were there? Did the businesses move or shut down? Did those people find new jobs?
A few more turns and we found ourselves on a pretty tree-lined street. A house we always thought looked like a cute cottage appeared to have new occupants. There’s a child’s easel in the driveway… and a tricycle! We made up stories about what we saw… The people who are living there, are they happy? Do both parents work-maybe as teachers or do they work at the nearby hospital? Do their kids love their yard? Do they have big family dinners or do they open the refrigerator at night and find there is not enough to eat?
When we got home, my daughter washed her hands and opened the refrigerator and said, “Mom, I know we were just on our ride to nowhere, but it did make me wonder… Like are there really a bunch of people without jobs from that abandoned building? And, do you think any of those people on that cute street are hungry or maybe working all night at hospitals or working all day at grocery stores in public?”
Our ride to nowhere prompted conversations that we probably would not have had otherwise. We would’ve been wrapped up in making sure homework was going to get done, no one was going to be late for practice, and making lists for the week ahead.
You may find yourself these days on a ride to nowhere, or maybe it’s a family walk or bike ride around your neighborhood for the umpteenth time! Whatever your ride to nowhere looks like, open your eyes and try to see beyond what you may have seen before. Let what you see prompt questions to ask your children. Maybe it will open your eyes as it did for us and start conversations about who lives in our community and what their lives are like during these difficult times.
Because when we become more open to the needs of those in our community, we can start making things better by giving back to those who need it most.