Hard Times

I had to make a deposit at the bank today. In front of me were a woman and her daughter, probably five or six years old. I was within earshot and overheard the teller explain to the woman that she would not be able to get any cash. She was already overdrawn. The woman looked defeated and on the verge of tears. The matter was compounded when her daughter asked "Mommy, does that mean that we're poor?" Her response, a hushed "no!"

For the tellers and those of us in line the moment was awkward and embarrassing. For the woman it must have been absolutely heartbreaking. I'm not a parent. But, I can appreciate the stress that one must feel knowing that their financial burdens are carried not just by themselves, but by their children as well.

The moment reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite films, The Bicycle Thief. The setting is post-World War II Italy. Jobs are scarce and times are tough. The story is of a father and son in search of the father's stolen bicycle. Without the bicycle he cannot do his job and provide for his family. When, after scouring the town they still can't find the bike, the father reaches his breaking point.

Unable to deal with the shame of not being able to support his family, he attempts to steal a bicycle from another man when he thinks that his son is not present. Not only does he get caught during this act of desperation, but he realizes that his son has witnessed the whole shameful scene.

The woman at the bank had committed no wrong. But, the look of fear, despair and disappointment in her eyes mirrored that of the bicycle thief in the climactic moment of the clip that I posted above. Unfortunately, this is a look that is becoming all too familiar.


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