I took the kidlets to the park today. We are lucky here in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, because there are some really nice, well-kept parks. Our favorite is the Veteran’s Park by Lake Loveland. The weather was nice (and lately it’s been pretty volatile), the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or chilly – Perfect park weather.

I learned a lesson today, too…never, ever judge a situation by what it appears to be. A few weeks ago, we went to the same park and I was looking for a picnic table. I work on my art and writing while the kids play, and a table really helps. This particular weekend, both shelters were booked. “Ohh-kay,” I thought..there was a group using one shelter and they had dragged over the two “public” tables as well – and weren’t using them. So I asked politely if they would mind if I used one of the tables. The lady who had rented the space coldly told me that, “We paid $100 for this and we’ll use what we want.” I was taken aback and told her that the fee didn’t include the public tables and she argued that it did. Long story, short was that she pretty snidely informed that it was “first come, first serve” and too bad for me. To say it left a bad taste in my mouth is an understatement – I was PO’d. Anyway, we stayed at the park that day for a little bit anyway – the kids wanted to play, and I sat on the grass and the edge of the playground and watched.

Which brings me to today. We went again to this same park, and there was a group setting up a birthday party in one of the shelters – they had taken two tables. I TRIPLE-checked the reservation list, and they weren’t on it, so I sat down at one of the tables where I could both work and watch the kids. There were some murmured comments, which I assumed were “What’s she doing? Doesn’t she see that we have these tables?” Me being me, I stubbornly refused to move, just waiting for a confrontation like the last one. This time I was working on reading and planning for my business, so it was easy to concentrate on the other stuff.

My munchkins had brought sidewalk chalk with them, and I encouraged them to share it with everyone – not just themselves. They did and we got quite a gallery going on the sidewalk of kid’s drawings in the summer – it was great. A few of the girls from the birthday party even joined in. So, after a bit everyone kind of scattered. Aidan and Becca came over to drink their water, and it was at this time that the party gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” and open presents. My kidlets watched and I told them, “It’s not ours guys…but you can wish the little girl happy birthday if you want.” They didn’t, and so I went back to work.

About 5 minutes later, someone touched me on the arm. It was the mother of the birthday girl. Uh-oh, I thought…here it comes. I’m sure my face reflected this, because she immediately said, “Oh, nothing’s wrong. I was just wondering if your kids would like a piece of cake?”

And yes…there was the lesson I’ve written about, wearing a kind smile and an offer of friendship. Be the change you want to see in the world, indeed. My munchkins gratefully accepted, and we decided to do something in return. We got the sidewalk chalk, drew some balloons and wrote, “Happy Birthday Arianna! From Aidan and Rebecca”

I was humbled today. I thought I was above being judgmental and arrogant, and I was taught a lesson. Thank God for people who teach us – and I’m glad I was open enough to hear the lesson. And so…I pick myself up, dust myself off and begin again to try to practice what I preach. It pays to look at the other side of the mirror.

So, happy birthday Arianna – you and your family gave ME the gift today. I wish you the best, and am glad there are people like you and your family in the world. You give me hope.

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