Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Kindness of Stranges

Back in my former pre-child life, I taught high school English. I hope that doesn't come as too much of a surprise! Regularly, as the bell would ring and my students would stream from the classroom, I would call after them, "Go make the world a better place!" And I can easily picture myself saying the same thing to my children each day when I send them off into the world.

But what does it exactly mean? What do I expect from my children, from my students, from myself? I'll tell you...not much! Not because my expectations are low, but because I don't think it takes much to make the world a better place. If you bring joy to one person in the course of your day, then you HAVE made the world a better place.

I bring all this up because I want to tell you about two experiences recently where strangers have done something completely random for no other reason than to bring a smile to my children's faces, which in turn brings a smile to mine.

First...the garbagemen! My kids LOVE to watch the garbage truck come, love to see the men hoist the trash cans into the air and dump all the trash into the back of their big truck, love to watch the men ride off hanging onto the back of the truck. And every now and then, the men will notice my kids, four eager, excited faces pressed against a window. On the days that the men notice, they'll WAVE! My kids will come running to me all shouting about how the garbagemen waved to them! It makes their day! It's a simple gesture by strangers that brings utter joy to my children.

Second...the firefighters. Unlike the waving garbagemen, this is a one-time experience, as we don't regularly have firetrucks cruising our neighborhood. A few weeks ago, a house up the street must have called 911 for something because a fire truck, ambulance, and police car all showed up at their house. It was nighttime and the blinds in the living room were still open, so my kids were attracted to the window by the flashing lights visible at the top of the hill. Their excitement over the fire truck drew me from the kitchen to check it out myself, and after realizing how many vehicles were up there, I called Jim too, and we all stood at the window watching. Bunch of nosey neighbors that we are! We even drew the blinds up so the kids could see better. Well, whatever the emergency was, it wasn't a fire, so after a bit, the fire truck turned off its lights and started to leave. The easiest way for it to turn around was to come down and take a turn about our cul-de-sac. Well, in doing that, the driver noticed my kids (again the eager, excited faces pressed against the window) and not only turned the lights back on, but also ran the siren for just a minute, just long enough to make the turn and bring utter delight to my children!

Neither of these stories involves any grand gestures, no planning, no money. They are simply acts of kindness by strangers who took the time to notice a few small children and put a smile on their faces. They didn't have to do what they did. We would never have known the difference. But they took a moment out of their busy lives, in the midst of doing their jobs, to do something nice.

May God bless the people who make this world a better place!


Beth said...

Great post!! As a fellow quad Mom, I am sometimes shocked by the rudeness of strangers in how they react to me and my children. I am also often pleasantly surprised by how kind strangers can be. A simple comment or gesture to brighten my day or something like these for the kids. The one minute those garbage men and firefighters took, was remembered much longer.
This is also a reminder to me how big of an impact my small gestures can make. I need to make sure it is a good impact.

memckee2 said...

Oh, I totally agree! When J was 4 he used to go out and perch on the fence on Thursday mornings and wait for the garbage truck to come. (Fortunately they followed a fairly regular schedule). After collection they would always yell out as they were leaving: "Be a good boy!" Thrilling!
Hmmmm - maybe that's why he's such a good man.

Suzy said...

I love this! It's why I always wave at the little kids in the neighborhood who frantically wave as I drive by ... I remember the thrill of an adult respond to you. :) I will be watching for these moments as my kids get older. :)