“Help me to understand.”

Tom Akerlund

If you were lucky enough to work with or be a student during Tom Akerlund’s long sojourn as an Ocean Beach School District Principal, the words “Help me to understand…” began many-a-discussion be it with a child or an adult who was appealing to him for assistance.  First as his question made clear, he wanted to know what the problem was from the point of view of the person seeking help.

A good place to start!  It didn’t really matter if he was on the playground during recess and had even seen the “event” occur.  What he wanted to know was how it was perceived by the person who was feeling aggrieved.  (Seldom did the other(s) appeal for assistance.)

I think of that question (and use it now and then) in these troubled economic times we are facing.  We’ve all heard the distress of our local small business owners — can’t get help and in many cases at any price. There seem to be a myriad of reasons — no affordable housing for workers; no affordable daycare; unwilling to do an interview; can get by on government assistance just fine; and a host of other reasons — some sensible sounding and some not.

A month or so ago I pulled into Jack’s parking lot (not the main one, but just around the corner to the southeast — still part of the lot but not really visible from inside the store) and stepped out of my car.  A nice-looking, well-dressed middle-aged woman approached me and asked if she could have a few dollars “for gas,” she said.  “Sorry,” I responded. I looked over toward the gas pumps but saw no unattended car.

“I just need enough to get me home so I can get my purse…”  I probably should have used Tom’s line at that point, but it didn’t occur to me.   And somehow I didn’t want to hear her story, which truth to tell made me feel rather uncomfortable.  “Sorry,” I said again,

But before I could walk away she said, “I’ve just gotten out of the hospital and I don’t have any money with me.” My first thought was “What?  They wouldn’t let you out until you gave them all your money??”  But I said only, “I’m sorry.  You know there are a number of places near here who are looking for workers.”

Such signs are everywere.

With that she walked off, heading for a guy getting out of a pickup.  I should have mentioned the incident when I went in to get my groceries, but the whole thing left me feeling uncomfortable and wanting to get back to make sure my car was okay.  Panhandlers at Jack’s!!  I could fairly hear Lucille (Jack, too, for that matter) rolling in her grave.

“Help me to understand.”

2 Responses to ““Help me to understand.””

  1. Cousin David says:

    In today’s world it’s your responsibility to take care of the plaintiff. This is the beach for Lord’s sake. Walk home to get your keys of whatever is your appeal.

  2. sydney says:

    Huh? I’m not quite sure I’m understanding you. Do elucidate.
    Beach Cuzzin Sydney

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