| All I Ask |

All I Ask: Chapter 38

"He’s scruffy and unkempt, and all the mothers are terrified of what might happen.
You’ve got to get rid of him”

F

reshly bathed and sleepy, thumb in mouth, Sari lay in bed, waiting for her father to come in and say goodnight. Her eyes were already closing.

“Hi, Sari. What did you do today?”

The little girl took her thumb out of her mouth and sat up, suddenly alert. “We went to the park. There’s a man there.”

“It was that beggar again,” Sari’s mother grumbled from the doorway. “You men have to find a way of getting him out of there, Shimon. He’s been camping in the park all week, and I’m afraid.”

“The man sleeps in the park,” Sari announced. “He has a bed in the park, and a blanket.”

“Really?” said her father, amused.

“Yes. A man sleeping in the park…”

“Well, now it’s time for Sari to go to sleep, too.”

“Sari doesn’t sleep in the park. Sari sleeps in the house. The man sleeps in the park.”

“Good night, sweetie. Sleep well.” They tucked her in and went to the kitchen.

“You hear what I’m saying?” All the sweetness had left the scene; Sari’s mother was focused, firm, and clearly agitated. “This fellow is a squatter, he’s built this ramshackle shelter for himself in Sanhedrin Park, at the end of one of the paths. The kids are curious, and they all go there to investigate and talk to him. He’s scruffy and unkempt, and all the mothers are terrified of what might happen. You’ve got to get rid of him.”

“How are we supposed to get rid of him? The police won’t intervene, as long as we have no proof that he’s doing any harm.”

“Proof?” Sari’s mother cried indignantly. “You mean we have to wait until he hurts one of our children, chas v’shalom, and then we’ll have proof that he needs to be removed from our park?”

“I see your point, but what can we do?”

She thought for a moment. Her friend Miriam, Shloimy’s mother, had already tried calling the municipal hotline to register a complaint. After getting past a series of recorded instructions to press this and that number, Miriam had finally reached a friendly human who informed her that this wasn’t a matter for City Hall and advised her to call the Welfare Bureau. A few other people from the neighborhood had gotten similar responses.

“Maybe you and some of the neighbors should talk to him directly,” said Sari’s mother. “Be nice about it, maybe even give him some money, and tell him that it frightens the children to have a stranger camping there, and it would be best if he found some other location.”

“But the kids aren’t frightened of him, and that’s precisely the problem,” said her husband. “If they were afraid, they wouldn’t go near him. I’ve talked about it with other fathers already, people with bigger kids, and they don’t know what to do. The kids are fascinated by machanot, and you can’t keep ten-year-olds locked up in the house.”

“Well, I’m sure you can think of something to tell him. Maybe you could offer to help him take apart his fascinating machaneh and rebuild it somewhere else.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 794)

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