A Newborn and His Mami

What I saw when I went to the Post Office

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, contributing writer
Published on LatinoLA: July 30, 2012

A Newborn and His Mami

As I walked to my local Post Office, I caught a glimpse of her. Slight, petite, neatly dressed, hair carefully held in a ponytail. She bore a small smile on her face as she greeted passersby. In her hand, she held a small sign: "Please help. Need Money. Two babies." And then I saw the tiny baby. He was dressed in a simple but clean outfit, with a little cap on his head.

This peaceful vignette was shattered by jackhammering going on about twenty feet from the lady and her baby. I spoke to her in Spanish and learned her name was "Maria." She was quite soft-spoken, and I had trouble hearing her due to the softness of her voice and the immensity of the mechanical sounds. My own ears were hurting, I could only imagine what that poor delicate baby was experiencing. "Cover his ears!", I yelled. "For they will suffer damage from the noise!" She seemed to understand and tried her best to protect him.

I watched as people left the Post Office. She looked them in the eye, gave them her pretty smile and said, gently, "Hi." Most ignored her. I told Maria we should move farther away from the jack hammering and closer to the Post Office. "Oh, no," she responded with a fearful voice, "A lady from there came out and told me I could not stand in front of the Post Office." I asked if she had given a reason and Maria said no, but that the lady had scared her.

You should know that, in front of the Post Office, there is a PUBLIC sidewalk, with signs posted saying "Pedestrian Walkway." I know these signs are temporary because the entire little neighborhood mall is getting a much needed facelift. Maria had not been obstructing pedestrians, nor had she been an aggressive panhandler. You and I know the type, they ask nicely for money, then if it is not forthcoming, you will be followed aggressively to the ends of the earth. Maria was probably the most meek person in need of money I have ever seen. And she not only had to support herself, she had a baby in her arms and another one being cared for elsewhere.

Maria and I continued talking, only now I moved us directly in front of the Post Office, out of people's way. Maria told me of a woman who had approached her with a "mean face" and had been very agitated, telling her, as Maria put it, "Go 'way. Go 'way!" and motioning with her hands and arms.

I know the people in the Post Office. I love most of them. They are my friends. But I went ballistic (a quiet inside sort of ballistic) when I heard Maria had been told she could not stand there. So I went inside. I did not wait my turn in line, as I usually would. I just walked in and confronted everybody in there. I talked to the lady to whom I feel closest, "Why did you tell that young woman she cannot stand there?" My friend replied, "Because she cannot."

They know I am an attorney, so I said, "Why not? She is not blocking anyone, it is public property, she is not disturbing anyone, so why did you make her move closer to the jack hammering with her baby? Name me one law or ordinance she is breaking right now." My friend was at a loss for words. Then the people in line started up.

One guy said, "They should have to work!" And I told the group, "What if WE cannot work? What do we do then?" And then I launched into closing argument mode: "Who are we, anyway? What has become of us as people, as a country, as a group, when we belittle people less fortunate than we and do not even want to see them? Wouldn't you want someone to help your son or daughter, your grandchildren, to pity them?" There was silence. I stalked out.

Maria and I took up our posts smack dab in front of the Post Office. We were visible from within the facility. And I told Maria, "Don't worry, I'll figure something out." All the while she said, "I'm scared, I'm scared..." Her baby lay quietly in her arms, unaware of the ruckus going on around him. And every single person who had been in the line in the Post Office walked over to us, opened their wallets and gave Maria money. Each one.

I have been trained to watch my surroundings and to be aware of goings-on. It was then that I saw the Police Car pulling into the parking lot.

To be continued

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, contributing writer:
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney

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