It’s A Small Town After All

Last Black Friday, what floated my boat was a brief cruise with my husband, daughter and three close family friends through the iconic “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland.

As the unmistakable tune, sung in various languages, played on an endless loop while we drifted past the somewhat stereotypical displays of countries around the world, I was torn between a funny feeling that I couldn’t believe where I actually was–at Disneyland, in a dark tunnel brightened by dancing mechanical dolls and flashing lights–and the conviction that it is, indeed, a small world in which all cultures deserve to be celebrated.

Life in Worthington, Minn., certainly provides me with a daily dose of diversity that illustrates the latter view every time I venture from my house. It’s also true that this is a place where things regularly happen that might shock residents of large cities.

For instance, in early December I dropped off an earring in need of a small repair at a locally owned jewelry store. After a few hours, a message was left on my phone that the earring was ready. As the young clerk handed me the small package, I asked what was owed.

“No charge,” she smiled, insistent even as I repeatedly queried, “Really?”

When two of the tires on my teenager’s 20-year-old car inexplicably deflated to nothing in our driveway late on a sub-zero afternoon, the service station I called sent two attendants within 10 minutes. Working efficiently, they inflated the tires, drove the vehicle to their shop and called to inform me of the issue–which was solved before noon the following day.

And then there was the decorative button that popped off an oversized bench cushion in our kitchen. With a dearth of handy woman knowledge to my credit, I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. One day I finally stopped by the small shop of an experienced upholsterer, popping in unannounced and expecting it could be a few weeks before the cushion would be back in action.

“Oh, this is no problem,” he said immediately. “Can you wait a few minutes?”

He expertly wielded a silver tool that looked to me like a gigantic needle. In no time at all–well, maybe five minutes–he’d completed the task (which I would have found impossible to execute), helped me lug the cushion back to my van and declined any payment for the valuable service with a shake of his head and a wave of his skilled hand.

All of this unexpected kindness is motivating. One frigid morning when my aforementioned teenager’s car simply wouldn’t start, I drove the test-burdened lad to school. Did the coat, scarf and boots I’d hastily donned adequately disguise my purple bathrobe? Let’s hope.

On my return route, with the clock showing three minutes to eight, I noticed a dark-haired boy scurrying toward the school. But he was still four long blocks from the building, the wind chill was -12 and he was wearing only a hooded sweatshirt.

I pulled over and asked through an open window if he needed a ride. Shyly, he nodded before climbing in, politely ignoring my bathrobe. He shivered as I turned around and drove quickly to the high school. In halting but understandable English, he explained he’d missed his bus–and had gotten off work at 6:30 a.m. from an overnight shift at the pork processing plant.

With only moments to spare before the bell, he nevertheless paused before exiting to look me in the eye and say “Thank you” twice.

We’re all in the same small world. Be kind. Be grateful. Be generous.

5 Responses

  1. Dorothy Christoffels

    I love Worthington for the same reasons. Since I’m a para at West it is fun going to Walmart with the happy smiles of many of the kids of diversity with whom I work. My experience at “It’s a Small World” wasn’t quite so pleasant. Our boat got stuck for a half an hour in there and I can still see those dolls going round and round in my memory. A cuckoo clock we later bought in Germany mistakenly plays the tune, so we are very tired of it.
    Thanks for your writing Jane, love your articles.
    Dorothy Christoffels

  2. Sonja

    This brought back wonderful memories of riding on a boat through “It’s a Small World” while visiting Disneyland many years ago when my husband was in the Navy.
    It also brought back fond memories of raising our family in a small town in North Dakota, and all the kindnesses shown to us by the town’s residents. I so enjoy going back there to visit lifelong friends that were made while we lived there.
    I feel it’s not only important for adults to do random acts of kindness, but to teach our youth to do so, too, as it makes both the receiver and the giver experience that good feeling that goes with it.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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