By Washington Osiro,
DURING THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES, the word “Family” appears to have taken on a significance far beyond its traditional understanding and meaning. The COVID-19 pandemic has seemingly brought many of us closer than most would have thought possible given the zeitgeist of the last several years; definitely of the last three years, and for that, I could not be happier.
Yes, “Family” is one’s brother, sister, and blood relations.
However, it is also random strangers whose equally random (and familial) acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and altruism are steeped in the desired and aspirational tradition of decency wrought on by our common humanity and our ties – via marriage, blood, and adoption – and frankly folks, the timeless beauty of these gestures is only superseded by the richness of the diversity that is the human “Family.”
“Family” is that kind hijab-clad lady who offers a fellow customer one of the five loaves of naan she has just ordered and paid for at the local Afghani market-cum-restaurant that serves a goat karahi to die for.
“Take it and go on your way, sir. I’ll wait for the next batch from the oven to complete my order,” she offers the grateful male customer.
It is that young white mother of two young girls – ages ten and six – on her way to work at the local hospital but still takes the time to bring me a shopping cart. This, the woman did while we both waited in line – for the local Target to open its doors at 8:00AM.
“I think I’ll make it to work on time. I have thirty minutes.” She offered – confidently, maybe hopefully.
HOPE. What a concept and how timely in its ability to tease out our common humanity. “Hope” is what motivates that truck-driving landscape business owner to wave the hybrid-driving “brother” into the parking spot the two drivers saw – at the same time.
“Hopefully,” there is another parking spot available for the kind landscaper.
“Family” is one’s blood “brother.”
It is also the man who offers to pay for the second bag of rice so that the twenty-something looking dread-locked “Brotha” and his young family can take advantage of the store-mandated two-bags-per-customer maximum. Suddenly, a people whose ethos and history is steeped in “Rugged Individualism” and are used to getting WHAT they want WHEN they want it don’t appear to have problems “SHARING.”
“Right on bruh,” the young father calls out as he walks towards the stranger who has just paid for his additional bag of rice, both arms open – in the near-universal gesture of a prelude to a bearhug – only to change to the less intrusive fist-bump – mid-act! The two men laugh at the new normal, but the magnanimity of the gesture and the gratitude of the recipient and his family is palpable and unmistakable.
“Family” is that brother and sister duo – all nine and six years of age – adorning their Sunday best and offering an impromptu concert for their quarantined 78-year-old neighbor in Clintonville, Ohio.
Why? Because amidst the insecurity and panic-buying and hoarding, the two children remembered Helena Schlamp’s birthday. This was an act that also brought to mind the thought:
What other combination of human interaction illustrates life’s beautiful cycle than visuals of grandparents and little children engaging one another? There is something so natural and reassuring about a grandparent, in my case, a grandmother, trying to soothe a restless child, that the effort transcends the participants – and pacifies me as well! Such was the case at the small off-the-beaten-path Mercado in neighboring Tracy. As only a grandmother could, the elderly customer cooed and coaxed two-year-old Isabel, who was upset and cranky because it was way past her nap time, but Mom was in line cradling a case of diapers and two cans of baby formula.
“I stopped by Walmart, and they were out of the formula I usually get for her,” Isabel’s mother told the abuela, who now had the previously-cranky child smiling – through occasional streams of tears and protestations.
“Why don’t you go next,” offered a Carhartt overall-clad man. “I only have this case of Cerveza,” he continued – with a hearty laugh.
“Muchas gracias,” offered the relieved mother.
Folks, amidst the COVID-19 virus-induced hopelessness, drudgery, and dreams/life interrupted, we have become a “Family” of “brothers” and “sisters” from the proverbial other “mothers” and “fathers” – ALL looking out for one another – via our collective random acts of kindness and thoughtfulness: It is this unsurprising revelation that makes YOUR little corner of the world, wherever it is, “still beautiful” – apologies to Max Ehrmann’s DESIDERATA.