“Mom, why is that pregnant lady really old and in a wheel chair”?
“Shhh…son that lady is not pregnant and it’s not nice to say things like that out loud. Let’s fish, ok?”
I love this about my kids because they just make me smile and laugh; when we go to a place where we are sitting or standing close to people, they have to talk to them. I know this quality is handed down from my lovely mother aka grandma Lulu (she is always making best friends where ever she goes). But it is sometimes a little un-nerving as we never know what might come out of those little minds.
We experienced quite the array of comments last summer during all of our outdoor adventures. The majority of these interactions would happen on the docks where we would fish after dinner sometimes. We would pull up to the parking lot and if there were people on the docks I would assume they see us coming and say to each other,
“Here we go; look what’s coming towards us!”
I feel like I should hand out free coffee cards or a free pass at an amusement park like they do at places where you have a bad experience and management wants you to not hate them. I’m sorry you were trying to have a relaxing evening with your beer on the docks, here you go, sorry.
One experience on the dock really stands out in my mind as both humorous and an example of how we should all be more child-like in our interactions with others…..
Spirit Lake, North Idaho.
As I’m holding my daughters hand, walking down the dock to find a place to plop down for an evening of fishing, I can only imagine how she is sizing the dock people up in her mind. Sure enough, as soon as we set our stuff down, she is over chatting it up. She is not biased in her selection or expectation of how people will respond. From the little kid playing in the mud to the older haggard looking fellow stumped over on his chair, she will talk to anyone (only if mom is there next to her as we have talked about several times!). She chooses the angry looking lady, tattered up with tattoos, and holding a 40 oz. can of Hams and cigarette hanging on for dear life from her untimely wrinkled lips.
My daughter puts her hands on her hips and peers into the water and innocently asks:
“Hey did you guys catch anything”?
My son witnesses her talking and bluntly comes to join the party:
“Hey where is yours kids”, he asks.
The lady chuckles unexpectedly and snuffs her cigarette out on the docks (thank you) and says:
“I been here all day and caught a bunch of perch to cook up for dinner”.
She pauses and takes a sip of beer and continues, “And my kids live with their dad right now ”.
My shoulders tighten and I try to distract…look an Eagle. But sure enough, it happens:
Daughter asks, “Why are your kids not with you? Are you divorced or something?”
I come over nervously laughing, hoping the lady will join me in laughter. She is polite and says,
“Yes I am. And my kids like to fish too”.
Time to reign in the troops. Family meeting time. I bust out the candy and lure the kids to the beach to have a little discussion about stranger danger and the rules of the dock which I pull out of the air. One of the rules includes being kind and loving to people but also being able to let people have their space and relax. Team cheer and we head back.
We start fishing and watch the lady to see how much she is drinking and make sure she is not drunk around my kids (which she is not, or else we would have probably left). We are soon joined by another family that has older teenagers. They take up space on the dock next to us. The techniques of fishing vary as some are fishing with lures and others with live bait. The sit and drink beer are the ‘bait folks’ and the youthful family to our left are the ‘lure foks’.
[In the beginning of the summer we were ‘live bait folk’ but after learning how our kids fished, we transferred to the fake worm type. I’m sure you understand- after you receive a baptism of worm gut juice down your neck from a untrained caster, you will never go back.]
Our Hams lady’s bobber goes under and she jolts up in her chair and knocks her beer over. My son and daughter ask for approval to go watch her reel it in and we all go over. She fights the fish for a few minutes, all the while keeping her cigarette holding on for dear life (how did she do that). Once she lands it, it’s a nice big bass. Everyone is cheering. The teenagers come over to see how big it is. The lady is grinning with glee and feeling good about being the one in the lime light with the big catch of the hour.
And then something happened…. we went from strangers on a dock to some sort of an unnatural family, working together to gather fish for dinner. Despite our varying economic class, religious beliefs and fishing styles, we become a tribe, a dock tribe. Hams lady asks if we want a beer and we decline but finally feel accepted after a shaky start.
She puts her bass into a bucket next to her shy mangy dog and covers it with a piece of wood. The kids have never experienced putting fish in a bucket before because we generally are a catch-and-release gang. They don’t realize the fate of these fish and so they become enthralled in “filling the bucket”. I’m sort of a sissy when it comes to killing animals but I know that this lady is going to be eating these creatures and it is in some way her love language to receive these fish and so I throw back every other bass or perch I catch and gift her with the other ones.
She smiles every time one of my kids dumps an unwilling fish into the bucket. This almost makes me cry as I am humbled by how my kids chose this hardened, dock fisher lady who was crouched over appearing angry when we arrived, to interact with. My initial instinct was to keep to myself and allow her to have her own space. But could it possibly be that people don’t want their own space? Maybe people try to seem like they want their own space, but what they truly need is less space and less judgmental people (like children) willing to give them their catches and cheer them on in their successes. I push away my reservations and end up finding out more about this woman’s life and allowed my kids to cheer her up. When we leave I give her a side hug and thank her for putting up with us.
What a blessing to experience someone’s heart being lifted by going against our cultural standards of minding one’s own business. Who knows, maybe that gave the woman some courage to feel better about her-self or hope that people are still capable of kindness…Or she went home and told her neighbors how annoying the dock kids were today ha-ha.
This was just the beginning of many interactions throughout the summer; some, very hilarious, others- very touching. I can’t help but go deeper from my experiences and point out that we all have docks in our lives. Maybe it’s the people we are riding on the train with, sitting in cubicles next to or even neighbors that we briefly look at while getting the mail. I know we are busy and we assume what people want, but from all of my experiences working at the hospital and working with hurting people- they need people to care, even if it seems like they don’t want it. I think of that verse when Jesus was telling people to have faith like children….Love with a child-like love!
And thank you to my Mom, Stacey Calvert, who loves like this and teaches others to do the same.
The same night, an old man unloaded his boat to go out by himself and my son went over and asked, “Why is your boat so little and the other boats are so big”. This just goes to show you sometimes kids can also make people feel horribly worse. haha…Sorry boat man- you are at least one step up from us dock fishers!!