The kids in my rough-and-tumble neighborhood range from horrid little beasts to precious souls who just need a chance. Some of them remind me of myself and so many of us from our generation when we were young. They experience life head-on instead of through smart phones or computers. They know every shortcut, dirt road, and chained dog in the neighborhood. There’s not an ounce of fat on them. There are a couple of tough little girls I’ve befriended as they make their daily rounds looking for work. Now they love to come over and play with my dogs and cats as well as performing easy odd jobs, such as sweeping the carport or raking up storm debris. They show their gratitude with hugs and affection and hundreds of thank yous.
These kids are wise and aware and full of curiosity about their world. These are not the kids who take sticks and bash swallow nests full of babies, these are kids who know every dog in the neighborhood and how its being treated—and care deeply when they see abuse. The downside of this is they report these facts to me as if I can fix it all, and that’s just not possible, so I often end up distressed from an overload of depressing information.
What I love most about my girls is their complete lack of the expected sense of entitlement that Americans have become notorious for. They don’t even consider using the small amount of cash I pay them to buy things for themselves, they give the money to their caregivers. They ask for rides to the Dollar Store to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent and other necessary household items, not personal gifts for themselves. I see the stress in the older girl as she worries about shut-off notices and unemployment and things kids shouldn’t have to agonize over. I know of spoiled young adults who’ve wanted for nothing financially whose bad behavior is excused because their parents are divorced—are you kidding? Get over it.
Lately my girls have been on foot patrol and I learned their bikes are in such disrepair they’ve given up trying to ride them. I got excited about providing them with safe transportation that will give them the freedom to roam without stressing over broken seats and shot inner tubes. I asked around town but couldn’t find anyone who had used bikes to donate, so I went on Craigslist and found two nice girls’ bikes for $10 each…but had to drive to Tucson to get them. The bikes were well cared for by a bike-loving family whose girls had outgrown them. The urchins love them but I think I love seeing them flying around the ’hood even more, and always with a tailwhip stop at my house. They’re so damn cute.
But, like other kids living a lifestyle of lack, they have a streak of con artist in them. The other day I came home from work to find they had cleaned the little shed that serves as my laundry room, and they were waiting for me in my driveway. I thanked them but told them they shouldn’t have done that without a mutual agreement first. When they asked to be paid I had to say no. They did this through a combination of innocence and desperation, and I felt bad, but they need to learn they can’t play their customers for suckers.
In the past few weeks the urchins have multiplied. What started off as two became three, and now four.
The girls love to pose and clown for the camera. I debated whether to post some pictures and finally decided why not.