The kid froze, partly in embarrassment partly in fear, as the mother stopped to hand over the food packet to the dishevelled beggar on the pavement. It was her daily routine. And as was his routine, the beggar would sit up, receive the packet, and thank her by briefly folding her palm into his hands. There would be routine tears of joy in his eyes.
"Why do you bother so much about him mummy?" asked the kid.
"My son! Just because someone is on the street, it does not mean they don't deserve care." replied a proud mom.
"But mom, there are so many people walking by. Why don't they care too?"
"I can't speak for the others dear. I just know that, for me, humanity means caring not just for our near and dear ones, but also for those who are disadvantaged and ignored. It's what makes us a good human being dear," and the proud smile shone brighter.
"But isn't it dangerous? He touched you with his dirty hands. What if it causes an infection? And what if he is mentally unstable and attacks you? Or follows us home mom?"
"Yes those risks are there, but that does not mean we stop caring, do we? And I will just get home and wash my hands thoroughly, isn't that alright?"
Kid agreed. And they walked on, towards home, dodging the uneven pavement and scurrying walkers. They had walked a few yards when the kid abruptly stopped and bent down to pick up a comb lying on the pavement. It was a shiny artefact that had fallen off some pocket or purse that was in a hurry.
"Hey what are you doing? Throw that away. Are you stupid to pick up like that?" thundered the mother.
"It looks so shiny and it was on the street. I don't think it belongs to anyone mummy!"
"Do you just pick up something lying on the street just like that? Do you have any sense? Look at all the people walking by. Is anyone picking up like that?"
"No mummy. But I was just..."
"Don't you argue with me. You should know it is absolutely wrong to touch something lying on the streets. Moreover, the comb may have been used by someone. It will have lice and dandruff and what not.."
"But I will wash it as soon as I get home mummy!"
"You won't understand.. " and mother plucked the comb from the kid's hand and threw it away. She kept cribbing about their soiled hands until they got home.