Monday, October 17, 2011

Little Bit of Kindness

So, I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before or not (it seems unlikely that I haven't since I'm pretty sure I've told you all 98% of everything about me by now) but I am slightly obsessed with little people.

Not kids (of course not) but the vertically challenged who you may know as dwarfs or midgets, but they don't like being called that now. I don't love the term "little person" either but it's not up to me, so whatever, I call them what they want. I think they are miracles and aren't revered nearly as they should be. I also think they are amazingly adorable.

So imagine my delight when I saw a little person employed as a sign holder on a busy road near our home. I shrieked and pointed him out to Mr. Ashley, exclaiming over his cuteness and vowing to eat at the BBQ place he was advertising. "I wonder if I could take him to lunch there?" I asked. "Would that be weird, to ask him to lunch?" Mr. Ashley assured me that it would definitely be weird. "I'm at least going to bring him some cookies or a cold drink or something one day. I want to meet him." I meant it, too.

I took the long way to pick the boys up from school most days just to see him, waving happily and giving his dance moves a thumbs up even if I was 3 lanes away. Every time I saw him out there in his little jeans and colorful hat, I smiled. Every day I saw him I thought of how one day I would make a point of stopping and meeting him.

And then last week a hit and run driver killed him. Running over a curb, hitting him, and leaving him to die in the bushes.

I was so sad and so angry. Angry at the fucking asshole who could just leave. Angry at my stupid county who thinks hot, ragged, poor people on street corners holding signs is preferable to allowing proper signage for local businesses. And unbelievably disappointed that I wouldn't catch a glimpse of his striped hat on my way home anymore.

But mostly I was really sad that he worked such a hot, thankless, boring job, and probably had a challenging life, and may have had no idea how much joy he brought people every day. Facebook confirmed that I wasn't the only local who loved seeing him, many were outraged and many were sad. It killed me that I felt so strongly about a perfect stranger who I thought was a hard worker and a good sport and I never got the chance to tell him so because day to day life got in the way and I assumed there would always be the future.

I woke up the next morning with my heart still heavy and had to take a moment to remember why I felt so sad inside before remembering that the little guy was gone. I read articles about him that revealed that he was an even harder worker than I knew, working odd jobs in construction and other sign holder positions, as well as at haunted houses and Christmas events. He always wanted to be sure to carry his own load, said friends and family. He loved animals and used to take his cocker spaniel to the dog park twice a day, arriving early to sweep the pine needles from the paths. His sister reported that his dog kept waiting at the window for him to come home. He is deeply missed by not only those who knew him, but also by those who didn't; "rest in peace" signs hastily erected in front of local businesses and a memorial at his old corner, code enforcement be damned.

The outpouring of love and interest was touching, I just wish he had known about it when he was alive.

Today Big Kid and I were driving to lunch and I saw a new sign holder on another corner. It was raining outside and he was dancing with all of his heart and soul. Not just dancing but DANCING! Feeling it! I laughed and pointed him out to Big Kid. I considered calling his employer to let them know how great he was. I thought of how cool it was that he was really going above and beyond for the sort of shitty job that probably pays minimum wage and makes you stand in the rain on a street corner. I thought that he probably gets thirsty out there dancing like that and that I should stop with a cold drink one day.

And I thought of the little guy.

And at lunch, I thought maybe there won't be a "one day". And I thought of that guy dancing in the rain for $7-something an hour, making strangers smile as they drove by and how he probably didn't even know he was awesome. And I bought an extra bottled water.

I was a little nervous. Some of these people are homeless or mentally ill and some of those people can be dangerous. Also, this guy was a hard worker, not someone seeking a handout, maybe he doesn't want my water. Maybe he'd think I was weird and would be rude to me. Maybe I shouldn't. I was kind of hoping he would be gone.

But there he was, an hour later, with the rain pouring down, still dancing like his feet were on fire. It took two u-turns and illegal parking to get near him. I jumped out in the rain and approached him from behind, realizing he had headphones on and unsure of how to proceed. I lightly touched his arm and he turned and looked at me and I held out the water.

"You're working hard out here, I thought you might be thirsty!" He looked confused but smiled as he reached for the water. "I love your dancing and you made me smile today so...thanks!" He looked amazed. He looked touched. His face flooded with happiness. We both stood there in the rain for a moment, pleased with ourselves and each other. He stuttered out a very genuine thank you and gave me a big grin. I told him to keep up the good work, he told me to do the same, and I saw him gratefully chugging the water as I got in the car. We waved enthusiastically at each other as I pulled out of the parking lot.

And it felt amazing. It felt really good to have that 2 minute moment with a perfect stranger and to tell someone they made me feel happy. It felt good to overcome my fear of being weird or of other people and to make a momentary connection like that.

Next week, my awkward acts of kindness victim will be the guy who wears a Superman costume and holds a sign for a tile and granite place. I've thought many times that he has to be hot in that suit, he wore it all summer.

I'm still really sorry I never got to meet that little guy, but feel grateful for what that regret taught me. I'm going to try to remember to thank the unthanked more often in his honor.

23 comments:

Seriously....Me. said...

Oh....that made me cry. Thank you.

Lin said...

Aw, this is such a sweet post. Out of nowhere tears started coming from my eyes...guess I'm turning into a softy, haha.

Thanks for sharing & now I think I'll be a little less hesitant to tell someone their doing a great job ;)

Bren said...

Wonderful yet sad story. Glad you had the courage to stop the second time. The "little person" is somewhere knowing he made you (and many others) smile!

Colleen said...

Oh wow, what a post. Very touching. And I hope they found the effing SOB who hit that man!!!

JT said...

This made me cry too. It's really important to do what you did. A bottle of water is no big deal. But reaching out to a stranger, with kindness and appreciation, takes a big heart. This is really beautiful.

Jill Ann said...

What a great story. You have a heart of gold.

Lisalu said...

You are awesome! And brave! *I* would have all those same doubtful feelings, but I would let them get in the way. You didn't, and that is inspiring!

Amy and Scott said...

Ok, I may or may not have had a couple glasses of wine before reading this, but it made me tear up too. Thanks. Nice job with the dancing sign guy. What a great message!

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Oh my gosh that's horrible about the guy that got killed! We had a bit of a discussion one day on Facebook about the whole human sign post thing. I said I thought it was ridiculous that they pay people to hold a sign when they could give them something a little more rewarding. Some people thought it was great. Kudos for the water to the new guy. There is a gal that just rocks it that I see sometimes. I should get her a Starbucks next time I drive past her ;)

Stacey said...

I am crying too. You may have made the signholder's day, but you have also gotten a lot of us thinking.

Nikky said...

A mentally disabled woman was just killed in a hit and run here in Detroit. It's sickening, what kind of person just leaves? Driving drunk, illegally, whatever. Still.

At the very least, you probably made that guys day. A little kindness can be an amazing thing, and I think it was really brave of you. I'm very shy, I'd have a really hard time getting over the 'being weird' thing.

Carolyn said...

Great story, thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

I think they caught the guy:

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2011/oct/10/stephan-duzick-fatal-hit-run-porsche/

Ran him over in a Porsche. I bet his bloodwork will come back positive for drugs/drinking.

So terrible.

Anonymous said...

I love love love your writing! In some ages-old post you mentioned the possibility of turning your blogs into a book. While it would be screamingly funny to re-read them, I think you have the makings of a short-story writer, if not an all-out novelist. I read your blog not because I have kids (I don't) or because I have crazy neighbors who do weird things (not that, either), but because you are funny, have a genuine ear for conversation and putting it down, and for describing situations and people with all their colors. --Sue in MA

Jennifer said...

You made me cry. At work.

Melissa said...

Another cry baby here.

This was truly a lovely post. Heartbreaking, but touching in the way that matters.

Celine said...

Thank you so much for sharing that story!! It was so touching and so true... My heart breaks for the little guy, though. I hope they caught the scumbag that ran him over like that!

MTGrace said...

What a devastating story! My heart hurts for the loss of that man. I'm glad you were inspired to move forward and express your appreciation for other people in that thankless job.

Mom said...

you make me proud.

Ashley said...

A citizen actually chased the hit and run driver down, I think that unnamed person is a hero. Thanks for all of the kudos, but I probably would have chickened out if I didn't have Big Kid with me--once I mentioned it I was kind of stuck ;-)

Sue in MA, thanks for the writing encouragement. I do have some good book ideas (one ironically involving a little person) but I'm my own worst critic and get stuck. Also, I'm lazy.

Theresa said...

Beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Not sure how they would feel about being called "amazingly adorable," but have you seen the show "The Little Couple?" I love them! They are so great together and I really admire them because you know they had to face some real difficulties to get to where they are in their lives. I am cheering for them to have a baby. Not like the creepy Duggars, who are on right before the Little Couple. I think that woman thinks her vagina is like a clown car.......

Ashley said...

Good point on "amazingly adorable", to clarify I meant that like they are cuter than cute, not that they are cute in spite of their circumstances--does that make sense? Questionable territory to be attracted to a group solely because of a physical uniqueness no matter what, I guess. But I mean that they are among the cutest people on earth, in my opinion and I do think they are miracles.

I've seen a few episodes of that show but JUST got cable back recently so will have to catch up.

Duggars are crazy.