Sunday, May 20, 2007

Southern Dueces

I've written before about the duality that is the Southern US, and today I witnessed yet another, somewhat insignificant and yet highly significant act that I've never seen anywhere else.

Let me set the scene:

It was a cool and cloudy day, unusual in recent days of unusually hot weather. A few raindrops fell in a much more ordered fashion than the big bunch of excited kids weaving around in complete chaos; Today was the graduating 5th grade field trip to an amusement park. For reasons seeming completely mad this morning, I had volunteered to go along. The parents had to drive themselves instead of riding on the bus (DARN!)

There we were, an odd bunch of moms and a dad, the only one in our group. This dad had clearly decided that he was mixing in an environment that was beneath him. He barely spoke to the other parents and kept his head at an angle that led his eyes always above the fray. He seemed to not want to be seen talking with anyone at the park, included the other parents as they might be of dubious parentage themselves. Because of this odd posture he caught my eye and held it, I wanted to see what effect the full adventure would have on him when the first kid dropped ice-cream on his shoe or he grabbed a rail covered in gum.

Upon arrival at the park, where the kids promptly lost what little minds they had left after waking up at 5:30, we discovered many of the rides involved some amount of water; and the air involved some amount of cold. Some of the children had packed so much that it looked like they could survive several days in a blizzard on the Appalachian trail. Others were more lightly geared, as in, they barely had a shirt on their backs and shorts on their bottoms. These ones had a few dollars hidden on their person somewhere, enough for, say, some ice-cream. (They asked for coffee but that was STRICTLY against the rules.) (I did later give in and gave my daughter some warm coffee after her lips turned purple) (The purple wasn't from the cold, it was from the combination of pink and blue cotton-candy she ate all day, she needed something bitter to balance the sweet.)

Big Coffee, Big Smile

The kids, being pre-pubescent and filled with the beginnings of the inferno of hormones, didn't seem to mind the cold and wet at first, but after a while a few of them were shivering. The group retired inside to eat lunch in a warm restaurant for relief and time to dry. I was staying outside, since I had had a serious drop in blood sugar and ate before anyone else. I sat on a bench and admired a sign, right there in public announcing "Shaved Ice and Frosted Nuts!" As I sat I glimpsed 'Frosty Dad' coming out of a shop carrying a pile of bright clothing. He sat stoically, probably not admiring the "Frosted Nuts" sign, nor the t-shirts that said things like "Pull My Finger...", his eyes above the crowd and a big frown on this face.

After a bit the kids came sliding out of the restaurant and we continued our mad march to see who could bear the biggest free fall drop without losing lunch (or maybe who would lose lunch first). It took me about a minute to realize that the kids who had been shivering and without a cover now had on cozy sweat-shirts, just the same colors that the Dad had been carrying. He was no-where to be seen. He had distributed the shirts so quickly, I'm pretty sure the kids didn't even realize who passed them out, they jut put them on (all in the correct sizes mind you) and went on to get splashed by the Alligator of Doom.

I was interested and amazed. There was no fanfare, or gloating superiority. I was pretty sure I was the only one who saw the Dad get the shirts. It was needed for the comfort of the kids and it was done, at some expense, and then everyone moved on without disturbing a hair. The act of kindness was done with smoothness and finess with no attention being brought to the giver and no expectation of acknowledgment.

This goes on a lot down here. Now, the cynic in me, who sits on my right shoulder reading the newspaper all day and flinching, might think this was done out of disgust or arrogance. But I remember a line from a movie with Brenden Frasier (Blast from the Past I think), where he was explaining his lessons of what a TRUE Gentleman or Lady was. It went something like,
 "Turns out, the short and very simple definition of a
gentleman or a lady is:someonewho always attempts to
make the people around him or her feel as comfortable
as possible..."
..." I thought this was an act that captured a little of that sentiment and of course I must think it was done for the right reasons. That way, if I'm called up to the Pearly Gates and asked about the things I noticed here on Earth, after my litany of condemnation of some of the actions of Humanity, I can say, "But many people seem to take care of things and each other for the right reasons..."

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

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