A couple days ago, Garth and I were returning home from 6 a.m. yoga. There’s a methadone clinic between the yoga studio and our house, and it’s always busy first thing in the morning. This morning, as we passed by, my eye was caught by a flash of bright pink. Walking along, holding her dad’s hand as they left the clinic, was a small girl of no more than three years old. Her blond hair was tangled and mashed on one side from sleep; she wore her pink sleeper and held a doll close to her chest.
My first thought was one of sadness. Here was a little girl (my narrative went) dragged from her bed on a cold, dark morning so her former heroin addict dad could get his methadone.
Then I saw myself: a middle class woman of comfortable means driving home from a yoga class before the start of work, pronouncing on a scene I knew nothing about.
What if I had it all wrong and my narrative didn’t describe her experience at all? What if methadone has given her daddy back to her? What if this is the first time in her life that he has held her hand and it makes her feel loved? What if the people at the clinic fuss over her and she adores the ritual of entering the warm building with its wafting smell of coffee and its smiling adults – smiling at her because they are uplifted by her fresh presence?
I want all children to grow up safe and warm and unscathed by things like drugs and early-morning awakenings, but I also want to remember that a life which appears, to me, to be devoid of these things may still be a life that is loved by the person living it.