I’m not even going to lie. When we first moved here from Denver (I KNOW), I hated it. I couldn’t wait to leave. I counted the days until Tim’s company would move us starting the day we got to this godforsaken place. It was ridiculously hot and there was nothing here and the grocery store sucked eggs and had moldy produce and I HATED IT ALL.
The days kept going by and the new position for Tim never came after the promised year….year and a half….here we are at two and a half years and still. nothing. Oh, there have been interviews. Even final ones. Yet not a single one has panned out. Not a one.
We were both over it. The emotional letdown from having one rejection after another after another was too much. Those opportunities weren’t meant to be but WHY???????
Sometime last summer, we were in the neighborhood walking and talking with Kellan and I brought up something a friend from Colorado said to me as I was lamenting over our situation. She said, “maybe you haven’t moved because you have to find what’s good about it all first.”She was right. We had been saying how much we loved our neighborhood. It’s the best neighborhood we have ever lived in. We don’t really have any friends in it, but everyone is nice, it’s an older neighborhood with big lots, every single house is different, and it has great running roads. They just added a park at one end and our house is amazing. Built like a tank. Huge backyard and has gorgeous windows that let in so much light. The sunsets from the backyard in the winter are incredible. I still despise summer…so we won’t go there…but we realized there are a lot of good things about where we physically live.
Then, Kellan and I spent two months in LA in August and September. It was a huge culture shock, especially for Kellan. Everyone is too busy, in too much of a hurry, and too important to give anyone else – especially a four year old – the time of day.
Kellan was almost in tears one morning when he kept trying to talk to our server at a restaurant and she never spoke a single word to us. Zero. Not one. When I finally was able to tell her that Kellan wanted to say something, she mumbled something as she walked away about being short staffed and busy and was gone. Kellan just looked at me like…why is she being like this??
I didn’t have a good answer other than that is the way people are there because that’s how the culture is…and that’s what people are used to and expect. It’s normal to them.
(Granted, we did run into people here and there who would stop and talk with Kellan, so it’s not everyone in LA…but the vast majority…they all need to just take a second and breathe)
Well, what’s normal to Kellan is the complete opposite. What’s normal is anyone and everyone stopping in the middle of what they’re doing to notice and talk with Kellan. A few days before Christmas, we were in a packed Bath & Body Works to pick up a gift. Kellan had just visited with santa and was SO EXCITED about it. He wanted to tell everyone. As we were waiting in line, a woman was rushing out and I had to tell Kellan to move so she could get by…I mean when there’s only one mall in the entire city, packed means basically walk to wall people and everyone has to squeeze around everyone else.
Anyway, so as this woman is inching her way around Kellan as fast as she can, he looks at her and says, “I just saw santa!”
Now, had we been in LA…his comment would have fallen on deaf ears. She could have pretended she didn’t hear him over the ambient noise and Christmas music.
But not here.
That woman, who was obviously in a hurry and had no time for anyone…that woman stopped dead in her tracks, turned around, and responded. Not only did she respond, she inquired. She had a conversation. She took time out of her day to make a child feel special.
She didn’t stop because she felt obligated or because she thought she’d get the mean mom, “I can’t believe you’re so rude to a kid” eyes.
She did it because she genuinely wanted to.
And that’s how a majority of people are here. They stop. They are never too busy. They understand that a child’s question deserves just as much attention as an adult’s.
The checkout person – Jo Ann – at our grocery store? She knows Kellan by name. She calls him the “movie star” and asks where he is if he’s not with me. Same with a handful of Target employees. I have had them ask me if it’s okay to give Kellan a special treat. They ask himhow he is and give him high fives.
The entire staff at a restaurant know us and will come talk with Kellan at our table when we are there. It’s probably because Kellan walked around the whole restaurant one day, introducing himself to everyone from the hosts to the manager to the people working behind the bar. But…they remembered him. They didn’t just see him as “some kid.”
Kellan has an entire cheering squad at swimming lessons. Every single one is probably over 70, save one guy who does therapy in the same pool he has lessons in…but they all help him when he’s struggling or scared. They tell him he did a great job or how he’s improving so much (and wow has he…but that post is for another time).
Just the other day, Kellan was having a reeeaaallllly tough day. Tears and the whole nine yards. He didn’t want to “dive” in (kneeling at the edge and kind of falling in like a dive) and swim to his instructor. He can and he usually has no issue, but he’s four and sometimes things are hard even when he’s done them before.
Well, the therapy guy starts talking with him – because he’s seen Kellan swim and knows he can do it – and then out of nowhere says he will race him to the middle of the pool. His therapy person swam out to where Kellan’s instructor was and the therapy guy and Kellan swam next to each other all the way to the middle of the pool while they were cheered on by the instructors.
And therapy guy turned Kellan’s entire lesson around with that small gesture. He even made sure he told him goodbye before we left.
I have example after example of people in this town going out of their way to make a kid feel special.
I have never lived anywhere like this. The way everyone stops and is never too busy…it is truly heartwarming. It isn’t easy to find a place like this. It’s a wonderful way for Kellan to learn how to interact with people. Without phones in faces and half distracted conversations. It’s fully engaging and 100% genuine.
Had we come here and left right away…or had we not decided to try and find the good in this place…I am not sure if we would have ever opened our eyes to the people here. They are wonderful. They have taught us all how we should pause. Life is lived in little moments every day. And we are blessed with those moments here every single day.
Never in a million years would I have given Arkansas credit for anything other than being a dumb old hick town.
But I was wrong.
And not one person here has rubbed that in my face.
Instead, they taught me with their kindness and genuiness and desire to treat people, young and old, with love and respect.
I’m humbled by the people here. And I’m so glad Kellan has learned such important life lessons…how to be human. To never be too busy to stop and talk with someone, even if we ARE busy.
Because you should never be too busy to be kind. To have a conversation. To brighten someone’s day.
We smile and say goodbye while we are still facing each other and bid them a nice day.
We live the little moments that are the formative moments in the lives of little children.
Arkansas gets that.
And now…we do too.