The news is always depressing, but it seems like it’s been even worse lately. On CNN yesterday, there were five stories above the fold about children who had been hurt, bodies found… horrible things. It makes me want to turn my eyes away from humanity.
Yesterday, a viral video of David Foster Wallace talking about the implacability of adult life crossed into my digital awareness. It is a good video, and it has some good insights about our choices, and the patterns of thought we fall into. But you can hear in it the overarching despair of someone struggling to see the good – even the made-up good – in humanity. It is hard to listen to this without remembering that David Foster Wallace died at his own hand, struggling to the end with a depression as implacable as a ninja assassin. He fought that suicide so long and so hard, and you can hear the fight in his words.
I watched that yesterday. Then I sat back and said to myself, “This is not my reality.” None of this incredibly depressing stuff is. Now, the bad parts of reality have gotten awfully close. The marathon bombings scattered pain to my right and to my left. There’s a guy who used to go to my son’s grade school who is fighting to keep one of his two legs. I’ve shared the story of my friend who ran towards the bombs. (In a surreal moment, she texted the other day asking if I wanted to go to the movies since she got some free tickets for being a first responder. Sadly, I couldn’t.)
But 98% of my life – perhaps more – is full of neat people who are nice, kind and friendly. That part of my reality crystallized for me the other day. Grey had a tough day at school, and I was working from home, so when I got a call saying that he had a tummy ache… well, I picked him up to let him have a quiet afternoon. The quiet bit lasted an hour or two, but then around 4:30 on a beautiful spring day, he decided he wanted to make a lemonade stand. He had done this last year, with varying degrees of success, but came back to the idea. He set up the table, made the signs, priced his offering (reasonably, as opposed to last year).
And they came. The mom in the van who said, “We have set up lemonade stands too, but we live on a cul-de-sac so they don’t usually go very well.” The older woman with lots of makeup and a nice car who talked to him with the yearning of a grandma who doesn’t see her grandkids often, and overpaid. The dad with his two boys in the car, on their way to go fishing. The neighbors, who see our sons as extensions of their own children. The young, tattooed couple walking by who were enthusiastically accosted, and who walked uphill two blocks to make a little kid’s day.
This random suburban sampling of humanity was kind and friendly. Almost all gave what was in their pocket, even if it was rather more than the price of a cup. Moreover, they gave encouragement, a smile and their support. No one stops at a lemonade stand because they are thirsty and pining for a cup of lemonade (although in point of fact, the best lemonade I’ve ever had was at a lemonade stand in Seattle). But lemonade stands do well because people are kind, and interested in each other, and generous. That is just as much “reality” – likely more so – than anything CNN is covering today.
It is one of my more pleasant chores to go through the pictures on my camera to upload them. I usually notify that vast cadre of people (all four of them!) that may be interested in such things here. To that effect, hey guys! I got the April pictures up! And it’s only May!