About six months ago we took a vacation. We ate frozen custard as we nearly melted in St. Louis. In Baltimore you were mesmerized by the mirrored eggs at the American Visionary Art Museum that reflected the late summer’s mid-morning sun and a nearly perfect little boy shadow in the courtyard.
This was our first big family vacation and you had a blast. So did we. Especially because we were there with you.
But I want to tell you a story not about the historic landmarks, the visit to your mommy’s first house or even the neat food you ate.
I want to tell you about a man who gave you a silver dollar.
One morning towards the end of our trip, the two of us took a walk as mommy slept a bit and enjoyed a shower at the hotel. Walking along the water in Baltimore, we went searching for the banging and clanging of a construction site. As we rolled along the wooden planked harbor sidewalk, a soft summer rain started to fall.
Taking a corner towards what once was a shipping warehouse and now is clearly high tech offices, that soft rain gave way to a steady pour. Soaked through, we found what we were looking for: excavators breaking up a street and loading it into a dump truck.
You were very pleased. I was very wet.
As we stood a safe distance away, a short, bespectacled man with unruly white hair contained by a hard hat, an equally untamed yet unrestrained beard and wide suspenders came over to talk. I was sure he was going to ask us to move further away from the action.
Speaking first, I thanked him for letting you watch the trucks and equipment. I told him that you love watching these big, loud machines even when they are still and quiet, but to see them in action brings a huge grin to your face; it has been that way since you were able to remember you liked things.
But he didn’t ask us to move further away. He mumbled a couple of sentences about enjoying life as much as a little boy watching construction, or something like that. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a silver dollar and placed it in my hand.
“For him,” he said pointing to you. “So one day you can tell him that someone gave him something.”
I was flabbergasted. Stumbling through a thank you, I tried to give it back but he refused. After shaking his hand and before I could ask his name, the man was in a small pickup truck on his way to somewhere else.
Now, pal I don’t know this man and never will see him again. Then he didn’t know me or you and will never see us again either. But I’m confident that he works harder for his dollar than I work for mine. His boots are covered in muck, his hands are hardened by his trade and he still gave you a dollar.
Kindness is powerful, buddy.
This is an important lesson for you to learn. Because, as you know, the first year or so of your life was impacted by an extreme lack of kindness in the world. Thankfully you have been surrounded by love and warmth but that wasn’t true for everyone. Sometimes, even little boys who love diggers and trucks aren’t treated the way the they should be treated. It’s very sad, and this suspenders-wearing construction worker seemed to know this. He did his part to make the world better.
I’m going to be telling you this story a lot as you grow up, as much for you as it will be for me.