Monday, October 23, 2006

This Jewish grandmother takes her Catholic granchildren to mass on Sunday mornings - an odd thing in itself but pretty pleasant. I really like the faith community in which Joanna and James are raising the kids -d efinitely on the more liberal, universalist side of their denomination. And I like the church itself, a simple old church down on the "drag" the street that runs parallel to the University of Texas Campus. I've got lots of memories of all kinds set on that street - used to work at the Head Start a block north, had my first Texas date at the now defunct drugstore two blocks north. My parents even handed down their memories of that street - included having had their own first date in the same drugstore. So the place is in positive context for me - and I don't much notice that the drag is now a magnet for street people of various persuasions, many of them angry, with a real edge. It is though, and the Catholic Church has an issue with them hanging out in its lovely courtyard. My grandkids and I experienced this problem first hand yesterday and it left me sad.

We were sitting on the steps of a small fountain while KK and Zachary ate cake from a church event. A man casually dressed but not obviously "homeless: approached us from behind and started talking directly to Zachary (four). His first comment was innocent enough "I hope that's the real deal." I thought it was an attempt to joke about the chocolate cake - but then he got increasingly obscene and threatening, talking directly into Zachary's eyes and saying horribly obscene things - Zach answered politely, having no idea what the man was saying. KK didn't know the words but picked up the menace in the man's voice and looks. She grabbed Zach's cake and I grabbed Zach and we got out of there nd quickly reported the incident to the church office.

The incident left me with mixed feelings - KK too. We both wish the man had been simply poor and would have appreciated a piece of cake. But he was scary and not just randomly crazy. He was aiming his venom directly at Zach. We felt very protective ofour relatively oblivious little guy. I also imagined the man who vented on us as a four year old and wondered what has gone wrong with and for him. I wish issues of compassion and safety were more straight forward.

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