Jackie Tavernetti: Ask, Don't Stare

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A most unusual relationship is at the heart of young Jackie Tavernetti’s introduction to homelessness.

I was 3 years old when I learned that asking questions and listening to people was much better than making judgments or assumptions.

I learned this lesson when I lived in San Francisco. There were many homeless people who lived in that neighborhood, and there were two in particular who stood out to me: Scotty and Mike. The main reason I noticed them more than others was because they lived in our driveway. Each evening they would set up their tents and every morning they would pack them up. My parents noticed that they would leave our front yard cleaner than they found it, often sweeping the leaf litter before heading on their way. They were very protective of our family too, warning people who were making a lot of noise late at night. I think our house was safer because of them.

Scotty and Mike were some of the nicest people I have ever met. They used to bring me little presents and toys to thank our family for letting them sleep in our driveway. I could not help but worry about Scotty and Mike though, and wished they had a home.

One day when my mom and I were walking home from the park, I noticed that Scotty and Mike were setting up their tents. Being my curious little self, I ran up to them and asked, “Why don’t you have a home?” At the time I knew that there were many people that didn’t have homes, but a big part of me just wanted to make sure Scotty and Mike were okay.

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Mike was the one who answered me. He knelt down so we were eye to eye and explained that they didn’t really want a home. He said that if they had one then they would have to deal with rent and other money problems. He actually thanked me for caring and being concerned. I simply nodded my head and didn’t even reflect on the bright smile that was drawn on their faces as I ran inside following my mom.

I still remember that day and how I made Scotty and Mike smile and how I made them feel good and appreciated. After that, I did not worry anymore about Scotty and Mike. They were living the life they wanted and I am happy I got to learn that lesson from such nice neighbors. I think if a 3-year-old can not judge a book by its cover and ask instead of stare, then everyone can.

With a Perspective, I am Jackie Tavernetti.

Jackie Tavernetti is in eighth grade at Kent Middle School in Kentfield.