Something You Don’t Want Your Kids to See—Or Do You?

Alexandria, VA

Two weeks ago, my husband and I took the kids to Alexandria, Virginia, for the day. We walked around, shopped a little bit, ate lunch, watched some of the street performers—including an amazing magician—and generally just enjoyed a day without a sports commitment.

When we hopped on the Trolley to take it up the street because the kids wanted to ride it, they were excited. At the next stop, a grey-haired man got on. He was older and red-faced, as if he’d been in the sun for seven straight days with no protective lotion. He was wearing a summer suit with a hat. My daughter was sitting next to me, and he got on the bus, unsure as to where to sit. I told my daughter to come nearer to me, and she did. The man sat down.

We rode up another couple of stops, and then it was our turn to hop off. It was also the man’s stop as well. He went to get off the bus, and instead of walking off the bus, landed face first, flat down on the street, in front of us. The folks on the bus held their breath, and my husband and another gentleman tried to help the man to his feet. It wasn’t that he was old that caused him to fall; he was drunk. Intoxicated beyond words. The bus driver asked him if he needed medical help. He couldn’t even respond in a coherent fashion.

My husband and the other man asked if he needed help and he nodded no. We saw the man shuffle away and over to a nearby building. I’m not too sure what happened to him after that.  That was the last we saw of him.

“What was wrong with that man?” my children asked.

“He was drunk,” I said. It was only noon on a Sunday, and it made me sad for the man. The writer in me wanted to know what was going on in his life that made him want to get that rip-roaring smashed in the morning?

“Why was he drunk?” my kids asked.

“I’m not too sure,” I told them, being completely honest about the entire situation. “I would guess he’s not very happy.”

I haven’t been able to get the image of him sprawled out on the asphalt out of my head. And though we—and others—tried to help him, he did not want any help at all.

I wouldn’t have elected for my children to witness something as shocking as that, but in the end, it’s okay that they did. We continued to talk about it for the rest of the day, and it certainly had an impact.

Needless to say, we didn’t ride the Trolley again, and instead strolled the streets, happily eating an ice cream, but still melancholy from the earlier event of the day.

My husband serving as the “apprentice” to the street magician.


  • Enza

    I am glad you were honest with your kids! I also think it’s good to see how others live and deal with life. When we lived in Nebraska, my family became part of a homeless ministry downtown. We took big pots of soup along with some other families and fed as many as 120 homeless people every Sunday. Some would be high off drugs, some drunk as a skunk, and others dirty and smelly. My boys, ages 16, 13, and 6, at the time, would come with us. They ended up wanting to go every Sunday because not only did they get to help but I think it just put their lives into perspective…to see how blessed they really were and things such as not being able to get your favorite video game is not really the end of the world.

    • Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni

      I’m glad you agreed that I should be honest with the kids. I’ve approached parenting that way, and so far, it seems to be working. I believe hiding things or trying to make them seem better than they are can make life too “good.” There are a lot of rotten stuff and rotten people out there, so just making them aware of their surroundings and how choices play a part of their life, is what I find to be most important.

      Thanks for the comment, Enza!

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