The Crosswalk

You could see how much he loved her.

One of my greatest teachers taught me parenting is about teaching by example and learning how to follow your child’s lead. I have read countless books about the importance of modeling and being attentive, responsive attuned and sensitive to the needs of your child. Yet, it took an encounter on a crosswalk for me to understand the real meaning of these words.

My wife and I were driving into town this week to go dancing. We were talking about dance leads and how we communicate our various dance moves through touch and hand movements.  Lady Gaga was playing on the car stereo while we were stopped at a light. I looked ahead and there they were, father and daughter. A tall muscular man with broad shoulders was holding his daughter’s hand as they crossed the street.  They smiled, laughed and looked at one another. In the car our music played and the winter wind blew but I swear I heard them squeal with delight. Their eyes gleamed as they shook their heads back and forth as if saying “no I am right” to one another.

It was not so much the gentle way his large hand carefully encased and caressed hers or how his arm stretched and his knees bent to allow their hands to meet. Rather, it was the way the world compacted into a small container of two beings, he and his daughter. Certainly, he was aware of the stop-light, the cars, the blowing wind and the upcoming curb but all of these were transient and disappeared within his daughters grasp.

He looked at her and she at him. They talked, giggled and danced across the street almost floating until she hopped up on the curb. Just then he turned and gave me a thankful nod for giving them extra time to cross. As he smiled so did I while watching them hand in hand dance away.

As a parent you will have countless opportunities to tell your child what to do, when to do it and why to do it. Yet, no matter how numerous these opportunities are they always come to an end. Each of us must replace this telling with listening and showing just as this father did. In this way lessons learned by your example, your voice, your touch, your patience and your loving support will never end.

Parenthood is a dance. As my wife and I pulled away from that street corner and a new song came on the stereo I realized each of us dance best when we remember how our leads change forever the lives of the children we touch.

Milk and Bread

I am always amazed by the places I find love.

Love is something we read about in books, hear about at church services and talk about with our children and spouses. The true meaning of love, however, is often best seen in small or invisible acts that happen every day. As I have grown older, the grace of age and the love of others have made these acts more visible to me.

Recently, on the way home from work I stopped in a neighborhood supermarket. There was only one aisle open and as I stood in line waiting I started talking to the man in front of me. We smiled and laughed about our short shopping list. I had a loaf of bread and he had a gallon of milk. He said all we needed was mayo and bologna and we were set for dinner. We both laughed. He told me he lived around the corner and was looking forward to getting warm. As we talked he kept blowing into his hands and rubbing them together as he cradled the milk in his arm.

While we talked he never stopped watching a young mother and her child in line ahead of us. The woman was barely twenty and her child looked to be almost four years old. The child was standing next to her mother and was holding on with one hand to a stroller her mom was pushing. She was wrapped with a furry hat, scarves and gloves and had on white princess boots. She stood next to her mom with unflinching silent patience. This mother had the same milk and bread we had and a package of butter, some peanut butter and jelly and a container of laundry detergent. As the cashier rang up her items she searched through her pockets and realized she did not have any money. She turned to the cashier with the grace of a queen and asked if her items could be put to the side while she crossed the street to her home to get the forgotten money. I looked outside at the snow and wondered how she could even push the stroller through the snow let alone make that trip again.

In that instant the man in front of me reached into his jacket, handed money to the cashier and gave the two plastic grocery bags to the mother. She placed the bags in the stroller and thanked him softly. He smiled and said he was happy to help. As she headed out of the store, he paid his bill, wished me well and pulled his hat and gloves on, grabbed his milk and was gone.

I paid my bill and headed out to the parking lot. Just as I reached my car I saw my new friend again. He was walking next to the mom from the store. She was holding the hand of her child and he held several bags of groceries in one hand and a folded stroller in the other. I sat in my car and smiled. Although it was still dark and the snow was blowing I was warm.

We do live in a world filled with love and people who care for one another. You just have to stop and look.