A First Encounter
By Carol D. Bradley
I am grateful for so much; grateful for many things, big and small.
I am grateful for my health and the good health of my husband and my family. That’s a big thing. I am grateful for our life here in this beautiful place that happened to come with a cornucopia of wonderful people and experiences in a beautiful culture. That’s a big thing.
I am grateful for containers of fresh, perfect, raspberries from the little rustic berry stand in Tepehuaje, on the south side of the lake near where we live. That’s a small thing.
I am grateful for the unconditional love in my rescue dogs’ eyes. I’m not sure if that is a big thing or small.
I am grateful for my two sons. That is a big thing and a small thing. Small in the way they tell goofy jokes; small in the way they say “I love you very much, Mom.” Big in the way they are healthy; big in the way they are happy; and big in the way they have grown to be loving and respectful men.
I want to tell you about one small thing, when my oldest son was an only child, that happened to him and, I like to think, contributed to shaping his view of the world, its people and cultures.
I was a young, single mom working in the parts department of a local Ford dealership. My job was to gather parts requested for mechanics’ work orders. It was a busy shop and the work was tough and fast paced. My son’s dad dropped our boy off at the end of one of their visits, close to the end of my work day.
Scotty was an adorable kid with white, corn-silk hair, big, blue eyes and a bright, blue ball cap that he insisted on wearing everywhere. He was a kind child with a big heart.
That day in the shop I asked him to stay close and out of trouble while I finished up my day. My last harried task was to gather parts for one of our most respected mechanics. Doug was a delightful man and well loved by everyone he came in contact with, co-workers and customers alike. Doug was also Jamaican, the color of dark roast coffee. He had a proud, tall swagger; a kind, gentle manner and the biggest grin I had ever seen. His mouth stretched across his mass of gleaming white teeth in a smile that could warm the polar caps. Jamaican people were a rarity in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, especially 30 years ago. I rarely gave it any thought, though, until he walked through the door into the parts department and my son looked up at him.
Scotty had never seen a black person before that day. I guess we were coddled in our small world; between Saskatoon and the farm, a three hour drive north, in Birch Hills. We vacationed at my parents’ home in a small town on the west coast of Canada. There were not many people of different ancestry that stuck out in any of those places. Scotty didn’t say a word. It never occurred to me to tell him about Doug being different or ask him to be polite and not stare should Doug come into the back counter.
He just stood there, all three and a half feet of him, and stared. When I saw the look on his face, I knew he was trying to reconcile, in his little mind, what he was seeing. His blue eyes were as big as dinner plates. I tried to get his attention without Doug noticing.
When Doug looked down at this starkly white little boy, I wasn’t prepared for what he would say. I wasn’t prepared for any reaction from either my son or me. Doug’s face broke into one of those big, warm smiles and he said; “I bet you’ve never seen anything like me before.” My little boy smiled back and shook his head no. With a low chuckle, Doug lifted him up and sat him on the counter with one dark arm around his body and talked to him in his deep, honeyed voice with his rhythmic accent.
I didn’t ask what they talked about after I gathered Doug’s parts. I was too stunned to react with anything meaningful. They just talked and smiled with an occasional giggle.
And my son was given a big gift; the gift of love and acceptance that to this day, I am truly grateful for.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com