Eli and I have started a new exercise routine where we go running every day on the beach in an attempt to be less lazy and to get into shape. Every time we go, we pass a homeless family living in the underpass nearby: a hugely fat mother, several kids between seven and twelve years old, and two toddlers. Sometimes, they sit near the beach with other homeless people, and the kids wander around the small playground near the underpass. They also sit in the underpass, which reeks of piss, or wander around the park that splits the highway.
One day, we were walking home, exiting the underpass. The mother was arguing with one of her daughters at the opposite end of the tunnel, while the two toddlers wandered around the steps leading to the park, out of the mother's eyesight. No older than two, they toddled on a steep concrete slope next to the stairs, their baby feet black with grime and their bellies bloated. They were golden brown, with curly hair and a scattering of baby teeth. They were naked except for diapers, which were so heavy with feces that they were literally hanging off their little bottoms. The highway, with cars rushing by at more than 60 miles an hour, was just steps away.
I daydreamed of running to the pharmacy and buying a package of Pampers. I fantasized about scooping the toddlers up and finding a shelter where they could be properly cared for. I wondered about calling Children's Services. I thought about coming back with a box of condoms and explaining to the mother how to use them. Realizing that most of my ideas were unrealistic, insensitive, and probably even non-existent, I kept walking, occasionally looking back over my shoulder.
Next time, I'm bringing Pampers.