By Tamara Jorell
“I’m taking the dog for a walk.” I clipped the leash on Lala. “Anyone wanna join me?”
“I will.” My daughter, Inga, age 17, stepped into her shoes by the door, and the three of us set off.
The first walk of spring always reveals what winter tries to hide under its pristine covering. After the melt, we witness the naked truth of inner-city living. Old chip bags and candy wrappers speckle sidewalks, and four months of doggy-doo pepper the boulevard in front of that one house.
Our enthusiasm not dampened by our surroundings that day, we breathed in air that hinted at gardens and sandals, barbecues and bike rides. And Lala trotted along between my girl and me, her nose twitching; her world of smells was new again.
Up ahead, two young men stood on the corner of the next block. Soon, we would reach them, but the dog was uneasy near strangers when on her leash; I would cut across the street before getting too close. One of the men motioned to me and called out something I couldn’t decipher. People had approached me before on that corner — and I hadn’t had spare change on me then either.
“I didn’t catch that,” I said to him when we were near enough. Fur stood in a ridge along the dog’s spine.
“Do you live on this block?” His gaze darted to something behind me, his expression etched with urgency. His friend shifted his feet, wearing the same anxious look.
“No.” I furrowed my brow. “Why?”
“There was a baby in the street back there.” He pointed behind us. “Maybe you could get him?”
I squinted in the direction he indicated and glimpsed the jerky steps of a toddler in a green coat half a block away and across the street. The little one climbed onto the curb and wobbled to his feet on the sidewalk. A van pulled up next to us. The passenger side window lowered, revealing four women inside.
“There’s a baby alone outside back there.” The driver’s words came out choppy as she thumbed in the same location. “Did you see him?”
The young men nodded.
“I’ll go,” I said.
The woman in the passenger seat jumped out, her mouth a straight line. She jogged across the street toward the spot where we had all spied the toddler.
Before joining the search, I waved to the two men. “You guys are the best.”
My girl, the dog and I began the hunt. But where was the little one now? We scanned the sidewalks and street. Nothing. He couldn’t have wandered far. We caught up to the woman from the van.
“He was just here.” She scowled, hands on her hips. “Now he’s gone.”
We combed the nearby yards together. As the seconds ticked by, anxiety squeezed my chest.
“Over there.” The woman pointed to a house.
Inside the home — and standing at the picture window — was the baby in green. He pressed his forehead and palms against the glass and stared back at us.
I exhaled tension, and my concern fluttered away. “Thank goodness.”
The driver of the van circled back to pick up her friend. And Inga, Lala and I strode home.
Each day holds things we hardly notice: cups of coffee and hot showers, dog walks and grocery runs. But acts of kindness perk up the mundane. During that first walk of spring, a tiny neighbor in a green coat rattled the lives of eight people for two minutes on one block in North Minneapolis. And just like that, our priorities melded. We rallied forces so even the smallest among us was safe.
Kindness notices a neighbor in need. And it makes sure we all find our way home.