Ryan Edwards Bertrand lives with his wife and son in Bloomington, Illinois. He is a professional writer and communication strategist through Red Writing. We recently interviewed his wife Jennie, so this entry makes a blog two-fer!
This month, my son Donovan (we call him Van) is right at two-and-a-half years old. He’s still happy to spend time with his mom and I, and he tells us if he needs something, but he has his own little life too.
He loves to swim. When I put a floaty belt on him, he often paddles toward strangers to tell them about himself. Recently, we went swimming on a busy night at the YMCA. As we walked in, I saw a couple of girls about Van’s age standing in the hallway wearing puffy pink coats. Their little faces stared blankly out of fuzz-trimmed hoods, while their mom stood a little ways away, furiously texting on her phone.
As we approached the girls, one of them held her arms straight out from her sides, offering a hug to Van. Without comment, Van hugged her, and for a couple seconds their coats squished in a tiny winter embrace. Then, Van and I continued on toward the locker room for the pool.
I tried to think of what I should say to Van. I wanted to reinforce the sweet little gesture, but all I could think of was “That was very nice of you to hug that girl,” which seemed ridiculous. He’d already shown more sweetness for strangers than I do.
Van’s enthusiasm for swimming, running, and other activities is entwined with his love for the people he meets, and the places he enjoys. There are times when he still needs coaching about how to share and get along, but he is clearly growing to love the community around him.
I think one of the best ways to be happy is to love where you are. It’s easy to spend time escaping where we are, and sometimes it’s hard to step away from the glowing screens that take us to other places. Increasingly, though, I see some people spending more time with actual people, in actual places around their community, talking about actual things. That makes me happy, because when people invest time in their community I think they strengthen the community for everyone. They help make it a place we can enjoy and share.
Fortunately, there are parks, paths, and other places in our community that inspire Van to bounce with excitement on the way. This summer, we plan to venture out for some local camping too. I look forward to hearing his tiny voice report his observations and understandings, and hearing him talk excitedly about the next time he gets to go.
I wish you the best in enjoying your favorite people and places, and having a little adventure!