As I wrote about last week, Christmas spirit is a sentiment that has waxed and waned for me over the years. This year was all wax for Venise and I. Odd phrase, but whatever, I have to tell everyone about the beautiful people we’ve encountered recently and their wonderful acts of chivalry and kindness.
First, I want to shout out to the Shoreline woman with bright eyes and curly hair who was awesomely driving a teal, vintage Volkswagen (bus?) van to Ikea in South Center with her three small children when I accosted her in the rainy parking lot. Henry and I had been sick all week and we desperately needed to get out of the house. He was so bored that when he looked at his toy box he cried. I am also very prone to cabin fever and had been crying on and off with boredom and sick misery for days. We headed to that magical Swedish land of $1 lattes to climb around on beds and infect the Swedes with our colds. My battery has been death rattling for a while and two hours with the lights left on while we frolicked in the warehouse outdid its last reserves of strength. I flagged the VW woman down for the simple reason that she looked nice, and she was there, and I picked well. With her children patiently waiting in the car she helped push my car into the open lane, jumped the battery with cables, called her husband when it wasn’t working correctly, and then didn’t even let a sarcastic edge enter her voice when I realized it was my cables that weren’t properly positioned on my battery. She was the picture of grace. When it was done and my car started I thanked her profusely for her patience and she took my parking spot and we all went on our way. I kicked myself for not having bought any extra toys or bags of Swedish fish to give to her kids.
Then, it happened again. I believe in second chances, apparently even for batteries that don’t deserve it. Just this week it died when Mom, Kate, Henry and I were trying to return home from our post-Christmas visit to downtown Seattle to see the Gingerbread houses at the Sheraton and do some shopping (a tradition we didn’t get to before Christmas this year and still had time for.) This time, I was the crazy lady walking through a very large parking garage while my overtired son sat mostly patiently in the backseat with Kate. I stopped four people before another van, this one filled with a family of five, finally said they could help. I wanted to thank them somehow as well but still had nothing so I gave them my business card. If you’re reading this currently, please bookmark this page and come soon to an activity day at the farm! We’d love to host your family at an upcoming family event for free and thank you in goat kisses and tractor rides.
The third beautifully kind moment I shared with my neighbor, a quiet old man who mainly keeps to himself. We don’t see much of him or his older son who lives with him. They both seem lonely. He used to work for the city in permitting and it was his job to memorize building codes. He now spends most of his time revenge compiling a binder of code violations the city has committed against itself and presenting them to their office weekly. My husband thinks this is a waste of tax payer dollars and I agree, but I also thinks it is hilarious and awesome. I brought him cookies and wished him Merry Christmas the morning of Christmas eve. An hour later he brought me my favorite gift of the year, a serious faced, dressed in red Nutcracker he had selected from his collection. He said, “everybody needs a nutcracker.” He himself has 23. He started with 30 but has given them to his daughter and granddaughter and now me. I love people.
The next acts of kindness were bestowed upon Venise. She is a better thought-thinker and more of a boy scout than I, and so was prepared and quick on her feet with thanks. When a tween in the Target parking lot saw her struggling to unload a full cart and entertain Deyton she walked over and offered her service and then played some peek a boo with Deyton. Venise settled her car load then wrote out a quick thank you note she had in the car and added a spare Starbucks card she had in her wallet. She left them on the mother and daughter’s windshield for a post-shopping surprise and totally wins at “paying it forward.”
Another grocery shopping trip was mentioned in the Snow Day blog post. Apparently my sister looks extremely frazzled in grocery stores with Deyton in tow, which doesn’t surprise me. She’s never been an exuberant shopper. A nice woman loaded her cart onto the belt while Venise oversaw the tail end of an epic tantrum on the linoleum below. Women who come to one another’s aid during epic tantrums have a special place in heaven.
Small moments connecting with strangers seem to be an ever rarer occasion in my life. As a communications major in college I learned about the power of touch on human emotional and physical health and about the constant negotiation between a person’s need for space and natural desire to let others in. I learned about how this volley differs between cultures and how my own cultural norms were in the process of change. I noticed it myself as my smart phone and ear buds began to replace mindless moments of staring into space that may have turned into accidental eye contact, half smiles, and a joking conversational opener. I am glad now to live in a town where I have to factor in extra time at the grocery story for Henry praise and random conversations. But having left the city, I spend more time in my car and in my home with my family, and less out among other humans. Between these shifts in societal norms and shifts in geography that I’ve experienced in the last ten years, I feel lucky in the last seven days to have experienced these collective thirty minutes with relative strangers, connecting over nothing. Kindness isn’t limited by season but one of the reasons I love the holidays is their ability to bring people together, over dead batteries and full carts and dusty Nutcrackers.