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Last week, Ruby and I went to the park after school.  She got out early and it wasn’t raining.  Here, that constitutes nice weather.

As we walked to the swings, we noticed a bunch of young Hispanic guys hanging out under the covered area.  Smart, because it could’ve rained any second.  They were eating and talking and listening to music.  Perhaps a little odd in the middle of the afternoon on a February Friday to see anyone celebrating – and out-of-doors at that – but no big deal.

I pushed Ruby on the swings.  She pumped her legs, pushing higher and higher. Pretty soon, another mom showed up with her daughter.  Her daughter, a tow-headed 4-year-old girl, wanted to play with Ruby right immediately.  Ruby was all for it.  They swung together and climbed on the monkey bars.

Yet another mom showed up with her little boy.  He was probably 2 at the most.  They went on the slide.  See?  It *was* a nice day!

All of a sudden, one of the Hispanic men offered the girl’s mom a plate with a wedge of pizza on it.  She was excited and accepted it eagerly.  Then he smiled at me and said, “And I’m bringing one for you, too!”

Wow.  I felt conflicted.  I didn’t know these guys at all.  They seemed very nice and all, but what to do?  Then I remembered we were eating pizza ourselves later that night, our Friday night tradition.

“Uh…no thank you,” I muttered.  I knew I’d have to speak up, or a paper plate of pepperoni pizza would soon be in my hand.

“Guys?  Guys.  We’re having pizza ourselves tonight,” I called across the grass to the all-male cohort.  “Thank you so much, but we’re going to pass.”

They looked a little put out.  I quickly thought through what I know about Latino culture, which, unfortunately, you could fit comfortably in a thimble.  I hoped I wasn’t doing anything super insulting by turning down the pizza.

Ruby and her pal and I continued to play for a bit longer, then we went home.

Fast forward to today.  I’m shopping at the store, humming to myself and plopping items in my cart.  I approach the dairy section. I check the protein content on regular old vanilla yogurt, then on the Greek yogurt.  The Greek yogurt is also $2 more.  I put the regular yogurt in my cart; it has more protein.  Greek yogurt tastes like spackle, anyway. The bearded, disheveled man standing in front of the dairy section, holding himself up with a pushcart device asks me a question.

“Excuse me”, he starts.  “Do you find, with that yogurt, that it gets watery?”

Why yes!  I think it’s one of yogurt’s (not so fabulous) defining characteristics.

“Does it spoil before you eat it all?”  Not usually.  But I’m hoping Zac’s newfound desire to eat more healthfully – thank you, OBJH health class!- will translate into smoothies, etc., as requested.

He confided in a strained voice that he was diabetic and bound by MS.  My heart went out to him.  He was pleasant and funny.  I told him of my son’s aversion to vegetables and even a lot of fruits.

“If it’s not too personal”, he added carefully, “what’s his condition?”

I  had to hoot.  Condition?  Pickiness?  I don’t think it qualifies as a disease – yet.

Again, I’m struck by the friendliness of people here.  Sure, I can’t lump everyone into this category, like the guy who almost hit in me the crosswalk.  But when it happens, I’m always touched by it. It’s hard to think of “strangers” here after these kinds of occurrences.  Thanks again, Sheltonians, for opening your hearts to me.

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