Among the many blessings that came with my husband and his two children was the set of friends that came along with this brand new social set. There is a core group of families and kids that create a social galaxy that branches out, curves back in and winds around a few times. These kids go to school together or Scouts together or karate together or volunteer together or some combination thereof.
One kid I’ve gotten along with since minute one, and for the past five years, I’ve watched him grow from a little 7 year old to an awkward pre-teen. We bonded over Dwyane Wade and his creaky knees. I’ve seen him grow up and poke the edges of boundaries with his parents, sometimes busting those boundaries wide open and driving his dad nuts. I’ve watched him try out lots of different hobbies and sports. Like his dad, he’s in love with music. Like his mom, he’s passionate about defending and caring for the helpless, for the people and things who need protection. I’ve watched him fall in love with dogs; I’ve watched him fall in love with the dog.
Recently I’ve watched as this young man went through two really difficult life lessons. The amazing thing is that somehow he has managed to take the good out of each situation and seemingly discard the bad.
There was the ugly encounter with racism. Depressing it is to learn that kids are still using racial slurs I was hoping we’d left behind. He confronted the situation head-on, getting into some trouble and learning a valuable lesson. For awhile I was worried he was going to end up a bitter person. Instead, after a period of time, he just seemed to leave it behind and move on.
The second involves the dog. There is nothing like a child’s first dog, the first dog they can appreciate and talk to and lean on in life. From the first picture with the dog on Facebook this child’s smile could have lit up the sky. Every successive picture showing naps and ball time and the dog curled up while his human reads ….. it is true love. Unfortunately the dog accidentally got out and went missing for nearly 24 hours.
The story is nothing short of miraculous and one of these moments where social media worked ridiculously well. His parents were able to email a picture of the dog to the homeowners in their development. When we were driving around looking for the dog, 1 out of 3 people we stopped had already heard about him and were actively looking. When we stopped to ask a young father on a bike with a son and daughter following on their bikes, he told us they were out looking already and we passed them several times. Unknown to us while we were out looking, a good samaritan – a school teacher who’s son was a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11 – saw the dog on a busy street just a few blocks away from where we were looking and stopped. He took the dog home and, thanks to social media, dog and boy are now happily reunited.
Not for nothing, this kid did not take it for granted that so many people were helping look for his family’s dog. Heck, its what his family would have done for their neighbor if someone else’s dog had gone missing. He watched and saw how many people were helping. For someone to pick his dog up off a busy street, saving the dog’s life – that’s not something he’s going to forget. Hopefully its not something he’ll take lightly.
Not that this kid needs any better example of altruism than his own parents, but sometimes life lessons are best when reinforced by absolute strangers. What really amazes me and is making me look at life with fresh eyes today is this child’s attitude. Its the resilience, the sheer beauty of a child’s happiness and the flexible nature of their hopes. Even when everything has seemed the worst, this young man sets the example of thankfulness.
Now his parents might say different things about this kid, this is surely my perspective. Watching him work his way through two difficult situations, situations that would knock an adult on their ass and come out with a smile on his face and his dog in his arms gives me fresh hope. Hope that people can be nice to one another. Hope that young people do appreciate the efforts of others. Mostly, though, hope that a little boy will sleep soundly tonight knowing his world is back in balance.