Guiltless

A few years ago, I was generous with a friend who wanted to open a restaurant in London, Ontario.  Tonight I sat in that restaurant as a guest of him and his wife.  Their attitude seems clear: “You’ll never pay for a meal here.”

As couples came in for dinner, I listened to their conversations blending.  It was a symphony of sounds and smiles.  The dream had come true, and my friend was grateful.  So … I had a delicious vegetarian pizza, a generous slice of Turtle cheesecake and two beer.  Just a bit too full at the end, and very happy.

I felt twinges of guilt in accepting a free meal but they soon floated away.  The gift I gave tonight was enjoying conversation with my friends and smiling as the food entered me.  The gift was received.  My willingness to not pay was received.  My friends were also allowed to give.

Also a few years ago, I wanted to go to the entire Rogers Cup tennis tournament in Toronto – nine days of inspired matches between the best women players in the world.  I bought a VIP package, with perks such as free parking and access to an air-conditioned lounge with comfy couches.  I got to go places and do things that most spectators couldn’t.  Then too I felt the prodding of guilt.  That time the floating away took longer than tonight but it also chose to leave.  Happy then and happy now.

I’m no better than the next person.  Still, when benefits come my way I choose to embrace them.  I’m not turning my back on a lovely part of life.  I’m here to experience the whole tapestry.

Your Gift

There was a young man in a special ed class. He couldn’t write much. He couldn’t speak well. He couldn’t think clearly. And although he was cared for by the school staff, he wasn’t seen as emerging, as a work in progress. He was a static reality in the eyes of many. “Oh yeah, I know Trevor. He’s …” (Choose your label)

Trevor wasn’t seen. Nobody thought to look for what his gift might be.

What would his life be like if this curriculum was gift-based, if we were able to see the gift in each of our children, and taught them around their gifts?

I’m reading a novel to the Grade 6 kids. They sit there in rows of rectangles on my laptop screen. At least I get to see them. The novel is The Last Leopard, the third in a series that follows the adventures of two 11-year-olds in South Africa: Martine and Ben. Over the first three books, Martine has been approached by an elusive white giraffe, and allowed to ride him – a privilege no other human being has been offered. She healed a beached dolphin, who lay on the sand close to death. She was pinned down and cut by a leopard, who then looked at her with curiosity, let her up, and wandered off into the bush. Martine’s obvious gift is her communion with animals, but it’s not that simple. She’s also astonishingly brave in the face of danger.

I asked the kids to look inside and see what gift resided there. Few of them were willing to volunteer a response. Was it a question they had never heard? One fellow said he could move his mouth in a weird way. I asked him for more. I asked him for deeper, but he stopped there. Fair enough. Another boy said he was a really good cook, and I visualized his future creations making lots of people happy.

I’ll keep asking the question as we watch Martine weave her magic. The light will shine on each of these online children. I know that much will be revealed.

Ten Dollars

I’ve written before about my hobby: picking up garbage on the sidewalks and gutters of Belmont.  It makes me happy.  Today I left home for the Diner on Main Street a half hour early since I knew there’d be an aftermath from Sunday’s Santa Claus Parade.

I was right.  I picked up about 130 cigarette butts on my trip south, plus assorted candy wrappers … and one complete chocolate bar!  My goal used to be to find lots of butts, sort of like a sports event.  Now I’m older and wiser.  The goal is zero.  However, today it wasn’t meant to be.

On the return journey, I found that the northerly citizens of Belmont were just as prolific as the southerly ones.  I was in mid-stoop when I caught a glimpse of a mauve rectangle ahead, nestled against some wet leaves in the gutter.  My eyes widened.  It was a ten dollar bill.  On previous trips, I’d stumbled upon a quarter here, a dime there, but this was verging on the miraculous.

The thought came … find the owner.  Okay, now how exactly am I supposed to do that?  Knock on a few doors, have folks check in their wallets and purses, and figure out if they’re short a ten spot?  Ah … no.

Nearby, two fellows were talking on the sidewalk.  I held up the bill, looked at one of them and said “Would you like this?”  And from what deep recess of my mind did that thought come?  I know I’m altruistic, but still.  The gentleman laughed and replied “No way.  You deserve it.  You’re the one picking up litter.”  Okay, point taken.  I returned the smile and placed Sir John A. Macdonald in my back pocket.

As I finished my walk home, that little piece of plastic money weighed me down.  “You don’t deserve it, Bruce.  It’s stealing.  Give it to charity.”  And other mumbo jumbo.  Finally I just accepted its presence in my life.  It’s a gift from the ether.  Some unknown force wants me to have ten dollars.  I need to accept it with grace.  By the time I put key into lock, the money was truly mine.

I think of other gifts, especially people’s kind words and deeds.  “Put them in your back pocket too, Bruce.  And say thank you.”  Hmm.  Good advice.

 

Slime

It was Thursday afternoon, just before the kids headed home.  I heard “Let’s show Mr. Kerr” and here came two girls to reveal the contents of a margarine tub.  I’ll call them Jessica and Claire.  In the hollow of the container was a mass of green goop.

I know me.  I know what I’d do in such a situation.  I reached in and scooped out the greenness.  It rolled over my fingers and started a descent between them.  So cool.  I just stared at the flow while the girls watched my every move.  Some of the concoction plummeted back into the tub but much of it stuck to my fingers.  I believe Jessica and Claire were looking at my face more than my digits.  Joy bubbled from within.

I found out that Jessica was the author of this masterpiece.  Apparently it’s Borax, glue and God knows what.  I asked her politely, “Would you be willing to make me some overnight?”  She smiled and said yes.  Excellent.  I’d have my own special supply in time for the week of March Break (no school).

Claire and Jessica giggled their way out of the portable and I was left with “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  I was sure I’d see them tomorrow.

Last day of school.  I showed up for the afternoon fun day.  As soon as I opened the portable’s door and hung up my coat, Claire and Jessica traipsed over, margarine tub in hand.  I took off the lid … and there was first class slime of a delicate turquoise hue.  Into my hands it went, and it also journeyed to my heart.  Soon we were off to the various adventures which resided in some classroom or another.  My goop sat contented on the shelf.  Two hours later, we returned to the Grade 6 class.  I picked up the slime, lifted it into the air with two hands, and let it sink so gracefully into the well-positioned tub three feet below.  It was a move deserving of an Olympic gold medal.

Claire came over and I casually mentioned how delicious the goop tasted, especially on toast.  Her face collapsed and her eyes grew exponentially.  I assured her immediately that I did no such thing … face back to normal.

At the every end of the day, Tiffany, the Grade 6 teacher, has the kids do “Shout Outs”, praise for cool stuff that a kid saw another student do.  I shouted out Jessica: “Thank you for the slime.”

***

And on to today.  I love walking the twenty minutes to the Belmont Diner for breakfast.  A sneaky little voice told me to put the slime tub in a plastic bag and carry it along.  So I did.  There I am sitting at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter demonstrating my goop abilities to the variety of human beings sitting around.  I think at least one person was impressed.  The rest?  Well, most of them kept their thoughts to themselves.

Now I glance over at the end table to see my turquoise friend cozy inside its Celeb margarine tub.  Just two buddies hanging out.  Who knows what horizons we’ll explore tomorrow.