On a walk around the neighborhood a few days ago, I passed by a not-quite-three-year-old boy and his mother playing in their front lawn. The boy was pushing around dirt at the base of a big tree in the middle of the yard, and when he saw me approach he smiled broadly, held up his right index finger, and said, “Dirt!”
In an exaggerated fashion, I responded, “Is your finger dirty?!” The boy nodded his head up and down, and giggled. I stopped walking, looked at him fully, and declared, “Oh my goodness!” in a wildly dramatic tone. The boy thought my reply was hilarious, and erupted in peals of laughter. (Apparently I am a fantastic comedian among the 2-and-3-year-old crowd.) The child’s mom smiled at our exchange, and I smiled back at her before waving goodbye to the boy and resuming my walk.
Fast forward to this afternoon. Once again I was on a walk around the neighborhood, and my path took me past the home where the young boy lives. Today the boy was playing in the driveway with his father – but when he saw me approaching, he RAN to the middle of the yard, collapsed to his knees at the base of the tree, poked a lone finger into the cold-and-wet ground, then quickly pointed it at me as I approached. Taking the obvious cue offered by the child, I looked at him and questioned, “Is your finger dirty?!” When the boy nodded and smiled broadly, I cried out, “Oh my goodness!” The boy burst into a fit of laughter – and the dad looked at the two of us very quizzically, not exactly certain what to think about the bizarre exchange he just witnessed. I smiled kindly at the man, shrugged my shoulders slightly, and resumed walking.
I was both surprised and impressed that this small child remembered me and our exchange from several days before – and I was moved by seeing how offering a very brief kindness to another human can have such a genuine and lasting impact. Here’s to taking ten seconds to share some smiles with a stranger – no matter his age. 🙂