"Can I help you with that?" A treatise on Kids These Days
I heard this tiny voice, and had to look down to locate the source. A boy of perhaps five or six was gazing up at me, pointing at the two dolls that my cart had just knocked to the floor at Marshall's.
You know retail. Come September onwards, there is so much stuff that there's no room for people, carts or anything else. Add to that my having to gimp around with a crutch for the time being, well.
He had bright blue eyes and blonde hair, his round face the picture of cherubic sincerity.
"Of course you can, and thank you," I said, meaning every word.
The little boy dutifully picked up the boxed dolls and returned them to the stack, which was nearly out of his reach.
His mother, not having been privy to the exchange, spotted her son and began to remonstrate him for being in the way.
Instantly I said, "Please, no, he just offered to help me, I'm the one who made the mess. He's being wonderful."
Her face exploded into a beaming smile, and she thanked him.
He beamed back, happy to be the Little Man, and of help. Pleasing two Big People at the same time.
For once, I thought to myself, for once let people help you. He is so proud of himself.
Moments later he approached me again as we were all checking out and asked, in that gorgeously honest way of kids,
"Bet you can't run very fast right now."
I laughed out loud. No truer words.
"No, not right now I can't. But I will soon." We smiled at each other as though we alone held a Great Secret.
Then, given the opening, he chattered happily until he and his mother and I were called to the checkout counters.
A moment later I handed his mother my card.
I told her about the "running" comment, and explained that he might enjoy looking at some of the photos on my website from Africa and Chile, since I did adventure travel.
"AFRICA???" the little boy nearly came out of his shirt. His eyes were alight. This old lady with a cane has been to AFRICA????
His mother and I grinned at each other. As I gimped out of Marshall's, the little boy called to me to have a nice Thanksgiving.
"And a Happy Christmas," I waved back.
If you spend time around children, and I don't for the most part, this exchange may not surprise you one bit. When a child's caregivers have encouraged natural empathy and good manners, this is what we get in the world.
He was confident and happy and very aware of those around him, enough to notice that I was doing a fine job of ruining the doll displays. Kids like that arise out of love and acknowledgement. The immense safety of knowing they are loved.
While I'm not a mom, and it's easy for me to pontificate, it strikes me that his mother's phone was nowhere to be seen. She was completely present with her two children, and they with her.
I will leave you to make of that what you will.
That was an early holiday gift for me. Helped by a tiny angel at a Marshall's.
With heartfelt thanks to all the moms and dads and caregivers who engage, support, love, correct with care and listen to their babies instead of shoving a phone into their hands to do the hard work. You're the ones who will help save the world.
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