Smiles, Sunshine and the Braided Hair Lady

We have a great playground in our town. It is one of those rambling wooden types that when you stand back looks like a castle. It won’t be long before some committee, somewhere, deems it too old or unsafe and it is torn down for a more modern look.

But for now, it is full of sights and sounds. The musical sounds coming from the built- in xylophone carry the newest piece by whichever young maestro is tapping on the keys. The sounds of children running over the drawbridges, sliding and shouting down the slides, and pounding the steps in the latest game of pick up tag. The swings make a certain swoosh sound to complement the squeak of the chain as young riders are treated to a ride high in the sky.

Moms, Dads, older siblings, babysitters, grandparents are everywhere. Some are chasing toddlers, following their every step and within arms reach to catch them just before they fall. Some chat with friends, read a magazine, play on their smartphone or enjoy a quiet moment sitting on a bench.

Last weekend, David and I sat warming our faces towards the sun, and sharing observations as we people watched. We chatted away about the water-logged baseball field, a cool pair of knee-high, high-top sneakers, really anything and everything that crossed our path of vision. Then we spotted the lady with the long, thin rows of finely braided hair that came halfway down her back.

“Your hair is beautiful,” I shouted over the climbing tube between us. “How long did it take you to grow it that long?”

As she moved closer to us, she threw back her head and laughed,” Honey, this isn’t my real hair, these are extensions. Here feel it.”

I felt her hair and learned that it took two people six hours to braid and weave her hair to the present state of beauty. Sometimes, she has sat for as long as ten hours. She was more than happy to tell me it left her bum feeling numb. She will leave the extensions in until April and then start all over again.

David next mentioned a man’s sweater and how it looked warm. It was blue and thickly woven with brown, pointed buttons that hung to one side for fastening the sweater close. I really liked it and so I inquired, ” Where did you get your sweater? I really like it and it looks warm.”

” I am not sure. It is warm. Maybe, Old Navy. Here, why don’t you look at the tag and see the brand,” he generously offered.

David and I went over to take a peek. The little guy of a few months who was being balanced in a baby- front carrying sling, smiled with amusement as two strangers stood close and pulled back his dad’s sweater from his shirt and stuck our hands down his back. We determined it was Old Navy, exchanged a few more pleasantries and went our own ways on the playground. We chatted with a few more people about the weather or their adorable children, really, they were quite cute.

I am always amazed and thrilled to watch children of various ages and from all walks of life playing together at the playground. Their is no secret code, no special arrangement, just a smile and the start of a conversation, an initiation to join in and play. Today, I realized the opportunities are there for the adults as well. A chance to share a compliment, a shopping tip or an encouraging word. The days are gone where the notion of chasing one another around the playground is appealing, but we can still play nice in the sandbox.

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathways, the good they do is inconceivable.
-Joseph Addison