These are the People in your Neighborhood

Why oh why did we make these stupid Valentines?

I woke up today knowing it was the last day of the month- and the first monthly “Be Less of Butt Face” Day.  I started the Facebook page with high hopes of inspiring others to commit acts of goodwill in their communities, but when I checked the site, there were exactly two people planning on performing good deeds today- myself and my idealistic fourteen year old niece (thanks, Kaile).

I had a throat so sore it felt like someone had been dragging a fork across it all night long.   I stayed up late coughing trying to appease said sore throat.   I was in no mood to be a good Samaritan.  It would be so easy to just blow off the assignment, especially since it didn’t seem likely anyone would take notice.  But dammit, I said I’d do something nice today, and so help me God, I was going to do something freaking nice!

Besides, kindness is not about getting everyone on your bandwagon- but I bet it would be  a very pleasant wagon, with lots of nice snacks, warm drinks, neck rubs, and crooning voices.  Kindness is about doing something good for someone else, without any need of recognition.  So I threw on my Twinkie shirt, because it makes me feel good when I wear it, and got to work.

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I enlisted my toddler to paint, glue, and glitter Valentines, with the idea that we would distribute the cards on the windshields of strangers.  As our paper and hands became covered with acrylics, I began to wonder if there might be a better plan for giving out our Valentines.  I have lived in my house since June, and have yet to meet the neighbors.  How am I to help create a better community if I don’t even know the people living in it?

I looked down at at my fingertips thick with paint, beads, and color.  The sunlight through the windows reflected off the tiny bits of glitter and as I moved my hands around, the tips dazzled and danced.  For a brief moment, they appeared to be encrusted in jewels, not layered in craft supplies.  As trite as it might sound, I had a physical manifestation of how kindness makes you beautiful.  I set my mind that today was the day we would spread neighborly cheer.

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I am generally pretty bad at meeting strangers. Believe it or not, I am a bit shy.  I have a hard time approaching people I don’t know, and when I force myself to do it, I generally come off as a bit of a stalker- “so, do you play at this park very often? Live around here?  Let’s get together so our kids can play….wait! where are you going? Let’s hang out!”

Aftering finishing the Valentines, we needed to let the glue and paint dry.  We ventured on a playdate and I got to talking with one of the moms who lives in my neighborhood.  I had mentioned the Double Dare Food Drive to her, and she wanted to get on board.  Yeah! At least one other person on the B-Face bandwagon of snacks and goodness!

We began exchanging ideas for how to get the kids and neighbors involved.  If I went out Valentining today, she and her kids would go out with me next week to collect goods.  The Valentines would serve to introduce the idea, and we could follow up in a few days once people had their goods ready.  It felt really good to have someone else excited about this project, and to not just feel like a dork going door to door dropping off Valentines.   And, I no longer had a out- I would be held accountable.

Which was a good thing.  Because that afternoon, as the boys were taking their naps, I got the biggest urge to just toss the Valentines and forget the whole thing.  My throat was killing me.  I was tired.  I just wanted to lounge on the couch, moan, and watch bad T.V.  But as the boys woke from their slumber, I steadied my resolve and grabbed our cards.  Let’s get this over with, I thought.

We waited until the evening, hoping to catch more people at home, but there were still quite a few houses with no one home.  Occassionally, we heard someone inside turning the TV off and shushing the dog, pretending to not be home.  But most people answered and smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see us.  It didn’t hurt that I dressed the boys in their matching Osh Kosh overalls, and pulled them in their red wagon from door to door-totally cute!

At some point, an old bassett hound began to follow us.  She had brown and white spots, but within her patches were streaks of grey.  Her belly hung low to the ground.  She appeared to be getting on in years, and just mosied around, sniffing the ground and waiting to be petted.  She followed us from house to house, happy to have the attention of two little boys.

Liam hoped that every house would have kids living in it that he could play with.  We came across an adorable set of 15 month old twins who wanted to touch him and walk for him and giggle.  He touched their hair, and cooed at them, while Kellen continued to chase the dog.  The twins’ parents did not know who the bassett belonged to, but knew her name was Daphne.

Daphne continued to follow us, and I began to get worried.  Liam seemed to think we were taking the dog home.  He kept saying “I don’t think she has a mama.  She better sleep with me.”

Luckily, at the last house we went to, the occupant knew who the owners were.  She was surprised to see Daphne so far away from home.  She pointed to a house at the far end of the street and said that was where Daphen lived.  We said we’d walk the old girl back.

We made our way up the street with Daphne dawdling behind us.  Liam kept saying “come on, girl” as if he has been a dog lover his whole life.  When we arrived at Daphne’s house, her owner was coming out of the garage.  He had clearly been looking for her and was happy she had returned.  He explained that she is friendly with most of the neighbors and makes her way to all of their homes, but generally did not go as far as ours.  I explained we had been out meeting neighbors and delivering Valentines, and she followed us around.

He asked if we met the couple with the twins, since they had kids similar to the ages of my boys. I replied that we had.  The elder gentleman said “oh good.  There will be a new generation of kids around here.  My four boys used to play with the two kids across the street, and those kids two houses down, and the ones in the cul de sac.  We used to block off this road for street hockey games and the neighbors would all just drive around rather than interrupt.”  His voice wandered off as he continued to spin tales of his family.

I thought, so that’s what I’ve been doing today.  I wasn’t giving out Valentines.  I wasn’t soliciting donations for a food drive.  I wasn’t meeting the neighbors.  I was setting the wheels in motion for an entire generation to come.  Who knows if it will come to pass, but when you put it in that context, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  And now Liam knows which house to visit whenever he feels like petting a dog.

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