I love the park at the end of our street.
No matter what kind of day I may be having, I have a moment of genuine contentment when arriving home; seeing the greenery, and people enjoying the open space.
It is larger than most parks tucked in a neighborhood. Within its 7.4 acres are a playground, sand volleyball court, basketball court, picnic tables and plenty of mature trees dotting the perimeters of and dispersed throughout the grassy expanses. A smooth cement path winds its way around the park. The path where my son learned to ride without training wheels, where I walk the dog, and where my husband and I have had some of our best conversations.
There is a man who frequents the path in the park. I do not know his name, we’ve hardly spoken, yet when we see him, he always brightens our day. The man is probably in his late 70s. He walks at a pretty good pace. Normally he is dressed in sweat pants or shorts and a t-shirt. He wears a blue hat like the one Gilligan wore on “Gilligan’s Island.”
I call him the Dog Bone Man. But only in my mind.
He has no dogs, and walks alone. In his pockets, there are always a few dog bones – just in case he encounters a dog on his walk. Most of the dogs in the neighborhood know him. He will slyly pull a big bone-shaped dog cookie out of his pocket and reach his hand out to a dog who happily accepts the gift with his mouth. The man gives a quick rub or pat on the dog’s head and keeps walking. For smaller dogs, he breaks off a piece of the larger bone.
The exchange takes all of about 5 seconds. Aside from a “Hello,” he does not linger. He does not strike me as lonely, he does not use the dog bone to create an opportunity to talk to others. He is friendly, but keeps to his walk at hand. Often he is several steps away as the dog is still crunching on his good fortune, or sniffing the path for remnants.
It is like never knowing when the ice cream truck may show up in your neighborhood. The kids are happily playing and they hear the jingle, suddenly a good day becomes a fabulous day. So it is with Scrubby, our dog. He is happy enough to be on a walk, but every once in a while, Dog Bone Man appears. Scrubby goes crazy with excitement; he can actually spot him from a good distance and pulls towards him.
It is a small thing, to stick a couple of dog bones in your pocket before each walk, yet it brings a huge smile to my face and a huge wag to my dog’s tail.
Dog Bone Man reminds me of that bumper sticker that was wildly popular in the ’80s: Practice random acts of kindness. That gentle reminder, if headed, carries a tremendous amount of power.
Often, even the simplest act is the difference between a good day and fabulous, tail-wagging day.