It was a gorgeous day.
Wind was blowing the tall pines shading the playground. I could hear the laughter and smell the aroma of food from the family reunion being held at a gazebo nearby. I hoped for an invitation to eat their fried chicken, potato salad, and casseroles of all kinds.
Maybe around 11 years old, a little boy sat on a swing in the mainly deserted playground. With his smart device in hand, he used his feet to swing just a bit as he played his game. He seemed to enjoy the alone space away from the festive reunion, but, there was also a loneliness in his eyes.
My son, Asher, and I played on the little kids playground before making our way over to the big kid playground. On the way over, I noticed Asher looking back towards the swings. He was curious about the little boy with the smart phone.
Realizing the obstacles on this playground were steep and above his skill level, Asher decided to walk over to the swing next to the boy.
“What’s his name?” Asher asked me.
I responded, “I don’t know his name. Ask him!”
“Jake,” said the little boy.
Asher signed and asked me if the little boy was playing “birds” (any smart device). I told him he was. Asher watched him play on the phone a while, and then decided to swing. There were few engagements between the 2 boys. Both seemed perfectly happy to simply be present.
When it was time to go, and Asher turned around and smiled at the little boy. The little boy smiled back. I smiled and told the little boy to have a good day, and Asher and I headed to my Dad’s truck.
“What’s his name?” is a common question in my world. Asher is deeply curious about who people are. The conversations are scripted as follows:
Asher: “What’s his name?”
Me: “I don’t know his/her name.” (He understands gender differences, but “her” is not easy for him to say.)
What happens next is dependent on the time we have to continue. If time permits, I will tell him, “I don’t know. Ask!”
Turning to the new person of interest…
Asher: “What’s his name?” (“Your” is also a hard word for him to say.)
He does not care what color someone is, what they are wearing, if they smell or not…nothing. All are vulnerable to the “What’s his name?” game.
The responses from people are interesting. Some don’t understand what was said, some smile, and others engage the conversation.
I’ve yet to figure out the formula to the ones who engage this conversation, but goodness is a common thread. It is hard to ignore this cute little boy with big blue eyes and crazy hair.
I used to think miracles were rare, but, now, I see them everyday. From a middle-aged man smoking a cigarette in front of the gas station to the war torn lady behind the counter at the restaurant, the power of kindness and curiosity breaks through and wins.
In one question, “What’s his name?”, hearts open and take a deep breath…if only for a moment. Asher meets people in sad situations and leaves them with a smile. He also reminds them that they have a name and someone cares enough to want to know it.
Sometimes, all folks really need is a good moment. Sometimes, people just want to know they are not invisible.
The little boy in the swing smiled as we walked away. He somehow looked happier. Refreshed. I knew why.
He played the “What’s his name?” game, and he did not feel alone anymore.