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.