When I was a child, my mother lost part of her vision. Too cash-strapped to pay for eye tests, my parents never discovered the reason. Back then it was a choice between glasses or groceries. But Mom made the best of it. She found if she held a book farther away, she could read it. Sometimes she’d say, “This is mice type. My arms are too short to read it,” and I’d hold the book for her. Anything too close, or too far away, she saw in soft focus. She said it was like watching an aging movie star filmed through gauze, a technique that makes everyone look younger and prettier.
Once my mom and I went to a gas station to fill our old Nash Rambler. With no self-service yet, we sat in the car while the attendant fueled us up. As the pump glug-glugged, a woman holding a small watering can came out of the gas station office and gave a drink to a lone dandelion that had pushed its way through a small crack in the asphalt. Mom rolled down her car window and said to the woman, “You’re a good person.” The woman smiled, though she looked a bit puzzled, and that’s when I saw the label on the can. It said: Weed Killer.
I decided to never tell Mom the truth. I’d rather she thought of that incident as proof that there are good people all around us.
Eventually I developed my mom’s soft-focus eyes. For weeks on my way home from Trader Joe’s I’d pass a sign—like a political-campaign lawn sign—that said, “Honk to Save the Ducks.” Planted in the grassy strip of an industrial park thrift shop, the sign was not far from the lake in Huntington Central Park. The lake supports a healthy assortment of waterfowl, and being an animal lover, I assumed that some bureaucratic agency was trying to rid the park of the ducks. I also assumed that the kindly shop owner was spearheading a grass-roots initiative to save them, so every time I’d pass the sign, I’d honk my horn in support.
But last week, I went shopping later than usual, so on my way home I had to wear my night driving glasses. As I prepared to do my traditional horn blast, I realized that the sign did not say, “Honk to Save the Ducks.” It said, “Honk if Dave Sucks.”
The next day I visited the shop and discovered that it’s where things from the TV show “Storage Wars” are sold. Dave, I learned, is a character on the show, a grumpy guy that everyone loves to hate.
I felt foolish—though not for honking. I felt foolish for getting glasses that made me see life’s sharp edges when I’d rather see its softer side.
I’m not saying we should all take off our glasses; but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all view the world through my mother’s gentle eyes? Maybe if more of us did, we’d be nicer to each other. We would roll down our windows and say to a stranger, “You’re a good person,” because even weed killers appreciate a kind word.