The other night I was doing laundry. At the laundromat. In what is regarded as a sketchy neighborhood. I realize this is regarded as a pathetic state of affairs, but bear with me.
The only other people in the laundromat were a father and son, aged about30 and 8, respectively. They were tossing a football back and forth near the entrance, away from the machines. They were black, or African American, or whatever term the current dogma requires. I mean, fill in the blank, it doesn’t matter to me.
Many people would think this activity in a laundromat might be disturbing, but it wasn’t, at least not to me. Far from it. The father was very careful not to bother anyone else – which was pretty much me – while he engaged in obviously enjoyable father-son play with his boy. In fact, I was just very impressed with both of them. Their limited interactions with me while all this was going on – that is, me doing my laundry, them doing their laundry but tossing around a football as they waited for the machines to finish – were polite, highly courteous, just very pleasant in every respect.
Their interactions with each other were better than that: inspiring, I would say. The father displayed an easy aptitude for paternal guidance and instruction that seemed to me beyond his years. He was good humored, steady, patient, in charge of his son but encouraging him to also be in charge of himself. He was perfect. They were perfect together. And it was a rather beautiful thing to see.
I see things like this, though maybe not quite so striking, often. And I can’t help contrasting these vignettes in my mind with the stories I read in the paper or see on the news coming from the same neighborhoods, where somebody robbed somebody else or somebody shot somebody else, and so on. These stories are not factually false in their particulars, but they are a wild distortion of reality. Reality is a lot more like the father-son interaction I saw than the stories in the newspaper. There’s no comparison, really.
Of course, this is hardly a unique insight. There is nothing new under the sun, I suppose. But the same thing comes in variations, and sometimes the variations are too beautiful and meaningful not to notice.