Ta-daaa – 180 Days of Magic

Sleights of moment, waving the family wand

Where kindness abounds

Posted by PlayGroundology on November 8, 2008

As our Barbados days were about to set for good we came to appreciate the warmth of spontaneous kindness. It seemed to be all around us like the sun sparkle on sea – bright and shiny, quick to move about. Countless times our lives were made easier on the spot by a stranger giving of themselves.

At the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral corner in Bridgetown a driver in the next lane who saw my hesitation when the green said go asked our destination. He motioned for us to follow him and in short order he delivered us to our destination signalling good-bye with a big wave as he drove off on his own business. Bridgetown is full of one way streets and narrow alleys. There’s no predicting how long it might have take us to hit or miss our spot without this gentleman”s assistance. It was as if his offer, his gesture of kindness was second nature, a natural response to lend a hand.

dsc000193Then there was Coral who left her house at 6h30 on a Sunday morning to cross the street and see who was noseying around the Grace Hill Moravian Church on Spooners Hill. Who was the man with his car parked in the church yard peering in the windows and walking about looking into the viewfinder of a digital camera before pop, pop, popping images from all angles?

She opened up the church for the congregation’s arrival later that morning and let me in to look around. Coral told me how over the last few years a very popular pre-school had been started and how money was being raised to repair a leaky roof. She remembered when the Learning Centre was a tenant years ago. This was a privately run school for children with learning disabilities. Prior to returning to Canada 25 years earlier, I taught there for 2 months.

The kids in my class of about 14 ranged in age from 9 to 12. They will all be in their 30s now. They were great kids back then eager to learn and full of fun. I was way out of my depth as a teacher. I wasn’t equipped, didn’t have the requisite education and skills and was suffering a personal crisis of confidence. I gave what I had at the time and was buoyed by the purpose and personalities of the students. For years I remembered their names but now only one or two come to my lips and a few of their faces that I see distinctly. They were sweethearts who treated their Canadian teacher much better than he deserved.

Each morning all the school’s kids gathered for commencement. They stretched in a single line from the alley that separated the principal’s office from my classroom right across the courtyard to the end limits of the property. There were the usual announcements followed by the song – Zion Train – a classic tune of hope and redemption. All down the line the children would begin to move, sway, heads help up, foot stepping, a little shiver of dance here, a smile to the sky there. That beat was imprinted on each of us as was the pride of recognizing a Caribbean hero of international stature. As day started, we were all irie.

Nellie was memory laning with me that morning but had fallen asleep in her car seat. As she started stirring, I took her out of the car to meet Coral and look with daddy inside the church. Nellie-Rose was a charmer as usual – looking, smiling with a little giggle talking thrown in for good measure. Coral thought she was “too sweet” and who was I to argue. Coral was preparing to visit another congregation that morning- a kind of inter-faith, or ecumenical exchange. Before heading back across the street to her house, she told me that for holidays later in the year she was considering a cruise in the islands. She’d been to Canada recently but wasn’t yet ready to go back and visit friends and family. Lots of Canada connections – personal and business – in many families.

dsc00623That last Sunday in Barbados Nellie and I flipped over to the National Stadium before heading back for some breakfast. It was a premier site for major sporting events but is now poor cousin to Kensington Oval, with its new ultra modern, sleek spectator stands. But the old boy has kept the jewel, the August crowning of the Crop Over Monarch on Kadooment Day (check this song by Alison Hinds the first woman to win the title). Across the street there is a large pasture that was home to a few ruminating bovines that morning. I wanted to get a cow photo that could be a companion to the shot Mélanie took in the Outer Hebrides a couple of years back. Try as I might, I wasn’t able to get anything that even approached the arresting simplicity and compositional beauty of that photo.

Back at the car, a little tummy was growling and I started to feed the girl some banana standing up next to her at the open back door. More traffic was starting to move though still very light as it was a Sunday morning. Then a driver did a u-turn and drove up next to us to ask if everything was ok. I guess it was a strange place to be parked so early in the day with nothing obvious around to be attracting our attention. I thanked him and assured him we were fine, that my little baby just needed a feeding before we got back on the road.

I want to keep these gratuitous acts of kindness mindfully fresh by attempting a little spontaneous generosity myself. It means incorporating more of the sentiment and sensitivity of giving into my own life. Not sure how I’ll make out but I’ll give it a whirl….

There were a lot of uplifted people across the islands and around the globe on Tuesday night. Obama had legions of Bajan and Caribbean admirers beating the drum for his race to the presidency. There was the father I met in the water out at Worthing Beach who right off the top asked me how the economy was in Canada. He gave a good overview of the challenges for Barbados where such a significant proportion of foreign exchange comes from tourism. Economy wasn’t his only concern though, it centered on decency in the world. Americans voted for a new day dawning, a reconciliation and a moving forward. The most poignant commentary I heard on the day after went something like this – Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther King could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run and Obama ran so our children can fly…. Obama can move the hope and help it take flight. We have the chance now for the world to become in the words of American immortal Louis Armstrong, a better, better place.

Let the flight and the better take off together.

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