While the summer is not over yet, I think I have found my greatest takeaway--other than the precious time spent with my son. I have thought it before, but yesterday brought it to the forefront of my mind, and I thought I would put it in words given the latest turmoil afflicting our country, our hearts, and our minds.
While sitting in a Greek restaurant in Montclair with friends and coworkers from the church I serve as a musician, I couldn't help but take note as I watched people interact, especially with my son as he explored the restaurant.
After he had eaten and was getting restless, I let him wander in the mostly empty restaurant. At first he cruised around our table and had fun smiling and communicating with my church colleagues, some of whom I've worked closely with, and some of whom I had just met. Of course he was a hit as he often is. Then he began to explore.
He crawled across the room to a table of men in their 30s and 40s, white, looked to be blue collar type guys. I thought it might annoy them if Auggie went by but he just smiled and they smiled back and said "hey little man" as I was going to grab him.
I put him down again and he crawled the other direction to a table of two older women, black, presumably retired or around that age, although I will say they were dressed pretty nicely for a casual lunch. They were deep in conversation. Once again, he smiled and was greeted with a couple of smiles in return. These ladies were close enough to our table that we struck up a short "oh, how cute, how old is he" type conversation. He found his way back.
He never made it to the table with the attractive, young, professional woman, but that's OK. I don't have too many friends that are single and in need of a little wing man. So no need to train him for that!
He even got in the waiter's way, but the young guy just laughed it off and made his way around him.
I've noticed for a long time that even the hardest looking people manage to give my little boy a big smile when they see him. And that's when I get to thinking...
I wish all people, regardless of their backgrounds, complete strangers, would look at each other, smile, and feel joy and love in the same way they do when they look at my son and in the way he looks at them. Auggie gives and receives countless unconditional smiles every day, and people always say how well-behaved and happy he seems. I know there is a correlation. We were all just like him once. Someone had to teach us to be different from that.
Then I realize, maybe for some people he's the only person all day they exchange smiles with. And then, think of all the people who don't get any positive interactions at all. And haven't for a long time. Maybe one day they get one from the wrong person and get involved with groups which promise acceptance but only through intolerance, hate, and violence toward other backgrounds or ideas. Their acts are dispicable. But, again, at one time or another, all of these people, they were just like my son. white outfits looking sexy and sassy
So, for me there are a lot of things I can do to help spread acceptance, joy, understanding, compassion, and unity despite our differences. To start I'm going to be more like Auggie and be more like the people around Auggie when they meet him. If he has taught me one thing (other than how to hold all of his limbs in one hand to keep them out of his messy diaper while I change him), it is that a smile goes a long way.
Maybe I'll be someone's first smile today. And maybe that will help.