We walked along the Seattle waterfront, the smell of seaweed, urine, and waffle cones filling our nostrils. People jostled and pressed in all around and I held my children’s hands tightly. Downtown in a big city I tend to get nervous, nervous of purse snatchers and kidnappers, worried that some lady will be getting high in the nasty public restroom stall again when my kids really need to pee. I notice everything seedy, disturbing, or sad and I want to protect my kids from seeing those things.
This particular trip to the big city we were showing some out-of-town visitors the sites, which always includes eating at Ivar’a Fish Bar, which means spending way too much on fish and chips which you then feed to the raucously bold seagulls.
When Wanda’s french fry supply ran out, she fed the seagulls my fries. When my fries ran out, she followed the seagulls’ bold scavenging example and started stealing from her aunt and uncle to feed the birdies. Eventually I cut her off.
“KayLynn and Cameron need to eat some of their fries… or possibly let their children have a turn feeding the seagulls.”
I told her it was okay to cry, just to let it all out. This made her cry harder. After a couple of minutes, she sat sullenly on my lap and Magoo walked over with a fresh tray of fries, a full, ten dollar tray of fries.
“That guy over there told me to share these with my sister,” Magoo said, gesturing to an older gentleman whom I had noticed enjoying my kids’ seagull-feeding joy earlier. He was several feet away with his back to us and not slowing down, not waiting around to be thanked or to watch my kids enjoy his gift.
Wanda combusted with excitement. SEAGULLS!
There are sweet people in this world, I thought.
Further down the waterfront, we came upon a penny squishing machine. Magoo really really wanted to squish a penny in a way that only a nine-year-old boy can want to pay money from his allowance to deface other money from his allowance. Of course he had not brought said allowance money with him so I fished into my wallet for two quarters and a penny to squish.
Of course, when Magoo had squished a penny, Wanda needed to do it too. But, alas, I did not have any more quarters and thus my allowance loan shop was closed. Tears ran down her pathetic face and I really did feel sad for her. The squished penny was pretty sweet. “I’m sorry, Bubba,” I explained, “I don’t have any quarters but I can hug you if you’re sad.”
A man cleared his throat from behind me. “She can have these two quarters if it’s alright with you.” He was standing in line with his grandson waiting for the penny squisher and wanted to help out. I thanked him and fished in my wallet for five dimes to repay him.
“Don’t be silly,” he said, waving my money away.
There are so many sweet people in this world.
It’s easy to notice the jerks. They talk loudly through the most tender parts of your date night movie, make snide comments about your adventurous new haircut, and they never EVER follow the rules in the parent pick-up line at the elementary school.
When someone levels up from jerk status to evil psychopath, every media outlet in the world shouts it from the rooftops. If the major news organizations were raising the citizens of this great nation, they would be the worst parents ever. Talk about reinforcing negative behavior!
But for every notable and highly publicized scumbag, there are thousands of good people offering small acts of kindness, reaching out in love and understanding and spending fifty cents to make a little girl’s day. We get to choose which ones we focus on, where we put our energy.
Sure, I’m gonna hold my kids’ hands when I’m walking around downtown, but I will also remember that although I have never been mugged, kidnapped, purse-snatched or assaulted in my entire life, in one afternoon I had someone sacrifice his lunch in the name of preschooler seagull feeding, another give my daughter fifty cents to squish a penny, and multiple people smile or open doors for me.
As we were finishing our little walk downtown, I took the dimes and the few pennies I had left and put them in the hat of a street performer, blowing jazz tunes on his trumpet.
I want to be the kind of person who gives away my last fifty cents to a stranger and I want to focus on others who do the same. Choose to be and see the kind of world you want to live in. It’s there. You just have to look.