This morning, after Miss Audrey's music class, she and I headed over to Barefoot Books in Concord. I'd been meaning to go there for ages - ever since they moved from Cambridge a few years ago. We have several of their books and enjoy them immensely.
The new store is just lovely. Bright, colorful, and cheerful. There's always a drop-in story time or craft event going on. There are well-designed play areas. Staff were so friendly and welcoming. And they really don't mind kids and parents just hanging out for a while.
Barefoot Books is well-known for promoting acceptance and cross-cultural diversity in their stories and books. The wide variety of stories and fables I saw from Africa, India, China, South America, and so much more was quite impressive. Even within stories, cross-cultural awareness is always a subtle presence. And we were privileged to see this corporate philosophy put into action today.
After Audrey and I had been hanging out, reading books, and doing puzzles for a while, a group (10? 12?) of developmentally disabled children came in (not having prearranged their visit) with their caregivers for a story time. And it was wonderful to watch! The staff welcomed them all with open arms and gave them the space they needed so the kids could be comfortable. The kids clearly all had serious challenges - most were partially (if not completely) deaf and/or blind with severe communication deficits. They were in the 7-10 age range, but were not there cognitively. But they all seemed cheerful and happy and absolutely loved the storytime. Many were singing along as best they could, which was just adorable. And every child was with a professional caregiver who clearly adored their charges. It made me happy that these kids have the resources behind them to have the care and love to thrive within the limits of their own personal challenges.
Which got me thinking about all the children out there who don't have those resources and are left floundering and neglected in sub-standard care. Which is just too distressing to put words to it.
And also got me thinking about my own three children. Yes, they have quirks and can drive me bonkers. But they are healthy. They can see and hear and interact easily with the world at large. They can go to school and form bonds and relationships with a wide variety of people. They will have the ability to support themselves and their families. They will have opportunities to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be, and make choices about how they live their lives. It's so easy to forget that this isn't true for many children.
I started today feeling very grumpy from a lot of whining and complaining around me (I was doing plenty myself). Now, I'm feeling blessed and grateful for what I have and thankful for the reminder about what is, actually, important.