In life we tend to focus on the exceptional events that happen. In fact the news is so much about the exceptional, we tend to miss the ordinary all together. Growing up in Cambridge Massachusetts I had a ticket to “the best show on earth”. I spent much of my teenage days roaming and nesting in Harvard Square just watching people. Harvard Sq. was my crossroads in the world, where I could witness the mix of culture, race, age, sex and sanity that comprised the world outside of Cambridge.
As I watched the variety of characters pass by, my mind would wonder about who they were, where they came from and about their story. Cambridge always had exceptional characters like Brother Blue and Reverend Larry Love who are pictured above. These two were exceptional characters who lived life overtly and with much flash and fanfare. It was easy to see what made them attractive but hard to understand what made them tick. In contrast what I gained by watching ordinary people doing simple things was how to like others for things not so dramatic.
Sidewalk Charity – Holidays are the time of the year when we are most reminded of the importance of giving. The Salvation Army volunteers ring their bells as a call to donate to those among us that are less fortunate. If you sit and watch those that heed their call you’ll be surprised at what you might learn. My experience has been that the most charitable people are those who appear to have the least amount to give. I imagine that they have a deeper understanding of what it feels like to not have what you need….it helped me understand better the importance of simple charity. Dropping a buck or some spare change in the cup of a homeless person without judging how they got into the state they are in or what they are going to do with the money is a simple act. Simple acts express our view on life. I knew that “There by the grace of God go I” … and I could see myself on either side of that situation.
Kindness at the COOP– Holding the door for another. Somewhere along the line we have confused simple acts of curtesy with indictments on others capability. My observation of those who risk kindness, is that they understand that kindness cost them nothing …..yet it means everything to others. You can see it on their faces.
Understanding – Sometimes we need to sit, watch and listen others to understand them. Understanding people offers us a better chance of liking them. More importantly it gives us a chance to understand ourselves better and in that way manage the things we like or dislike about ourselves.
Just A Kid From Cambridge – I’m a kid from Cambridge Ma. and I’m proud to show it. I’ve worn this sweatshirt that I bought on-line, across the country and during my travels overseas. The crazy thing about Cantabrigians is we love to talk about our hometown and this sweatshirt is like an open door policy to chat.
Recently, I was in Essex Ma at Woodman’s having a fisherman platter when I noticed this older gentleman looking straight at me. He passed by our table a few time and each time he looked as if he knew me. Finally he approached our table and asked “Hey, you from Cambridge?” I said yes.. “Did you grow up there?” Yes.. I’m from Allston Street… “I’m from River Street” he said… I set down my plastic fork …because I knew it was time for me to stop, look and listen. Regardless of the streets we grew up on we were both from Cambridge …..and he was going to take me back to a time and place that where as much a part of who he was as his name. I sat silently watching his eyes light up and as his body animate each of his childhood memories about playing sports in Hoyt Field. As I sat listening I learned about a time when times were tough but life was sweet. Meeting someone from Cambridge allowed him to taste those sweet memories again. When he was done, he said, “its been a pleasure meeting you” and I said thank you. Listening cost me nothing more than my time, yet I knew that it meant the world to him.
So, rather than “Parking your car in the Harvard Yard” which anyone from Cambridge knows is a joke because there is never a place to park in the Harvard Yard….but you can park your arse in Harvard, Central, Porter, Lafayette, Inman or Kendal Square. I invite you to get a cup of coffee some day and just watch and listen while you are there.
I think what you will see about your city is that it is one grand show of humanity. It will open your eye’s to the ordinary things in life that help you understand what it means to be “Just a kid from Cambridge”. It’s be your ticket to the greatest show on earth.