It was a long day with the kids in the park yesterday. Ten days and counting that Mommy, not school, has entertained and educated. I was feeling pretty surly. By the looks of it, behind me in line at Union Market, everyone else was too.
I turned back to the checkout girl, shaking my head. I have decided to embrace these girls, often surly themselves, with kindness and a smile rather than a snarky attitude. It has helped.
I leaned in. "How many people, would you say, come up here with a smile on their face?" I asked as she rung up my overpriced ground beef and peppers. It was taco night.
She stopped ringing and looked up, wracking her brain. "Hmmm..." she said.
"Percentage-wise?" I goosed her.
She shook her head. "Not many, that's for sure."
The checkout girl next door, who had barked at me that she "wasn't open!" piped in.
"People are mad," she said, "and they take it out on us!"
I dared not look behind me again as I pulled out my stars and handed them to all four cashiers with a smile.
"See, if people smiled more, if they were friendlier, you'd be friendlier back, right?" I asked. They all nodded, smiling now because of their stars, because one of "them," these miserable line-standers that walked up one by one with a snarl, had taken notice of their plight, noticed them not just the too-high numbers appearing on the register's screen as it sub-totalled.
I walked out more sure than ever about my Gold Star Project and the sentiment behind it, the sentiment that says that seeing people, really stopping and taking notice of their efforts, pays off in the end, for everyone.
After tacos, a family fave, I set out with the boys for the movies, to How To Tame A Dragon, in 3-D. My expectations were low, always a good way to go in. It didn't matter. Just seeing the boys slunk in their seats in rapt attention behind their big glasses was entertainment enough.
I often fall asleep in animated movies. I cannot help it. In this one, there was no chance of that. It was action-packed from the first moment on, and totally gripping. I even screamed, startled a couple of times when the dragons whipped around out of nowhere. The message was hard-hitting and clear, a really, really important one, one that reminded me very much of my earlier incident at Union Market: we have to get to know the enemy--in this case dragons--and, by doing so, we can figure them or, at the very least, fail to be able to kill them.
When, at the end, the young peacemaking Viking protagonist prevails, convincing his Viking leader father and the town to make dragons friends rather than foes, having felled the big beast they served, Oscar let out a big satisfied sigh.
"Aaaah," he said with a smile, "they're happy now..."
I started crying. I wish it were as simple as the movie made it seem. As we walked out, the themes were strong in the kids' minds: darkness versus light, understanding instead of matching violence with violence.
"How come all the dragons kept going back to feed that big dragon, Mommy?" Eli asked, "How come they didn't just fly away somewhere else?"
We had just been discussing World Wars that morning as Eli read one of his favorite books on presidents.
"Well," I said, "it's like with Hitler, why did people agree to do his bidding, to kill other people? He convinced them that they had to do that, that it was the right thing, the necessary thing to protect themselves."
As they seemed amenable, I went on, talking about how some people fought it, but that, sadly, Hitler, like many evil leaders before and after him, was able to make darkness prevail.
Eli stopped and turned to me on the sidewalk open-mouthed by the comparison. "Oh my God," he said, "you're right, it's exactly like World War II!"
Kudos to the makers of How to Tame A Dragon, to the writer. The lessons learned, in an entertaining way, were serious ones, ones that we as adults often forget: we are all of us in this together and time is too precious not to smile and see each other, to help each other through, all of us, on every side.