As Monkey urged the players for the ball, I kept trying to quiet him down and lure him back to the picnic blanket, but eventually the player turned around and indicated we should wait a few minutes. So Monkey came and sat with me and, after the match ended, this tennis player came to the high fence and obligingly threw the tennis ball over the fence. Monkey delightedly threw it back and we both thanked the man for his kindness. I was impressed that this young man--in his 20s--could be so considerate to a 3-year-old he didn't even know. Even more amazingly, when the next people came to play, Monkey made the same request and another stranger threw him the ball back and forth over the fence and told Monkey to keep the ball.
As we were getting to leave, one of the kids playing basketball chased down a loose ball bouncing by us. As I cringed in embarrassment Monkey pleaded, "Play with me!" Before I could tell Monkey that surely the boy needed to return to his friends, the boy surprised me by agreeing to play. The boy threw Monkey the tennis ball and tried to teach him how to hit it with the stick Monkey had been swinging around like a racket. Instead of being embarrassed of being seen by all his junior high friends on the court, this young teenager was an incredibly patient and thoughtful teacher.
I'm not a cynic by any means, but I've been so surprised and, more than anything, impressed with the humanity of people around me. We live in a large city with a very diverse population, yet a majority of people have smiled kindly at Monkey's comments, tolerated his obsession with pushing elevator buttons and unfailingly answered his questions. I've never assumed everyone is charmed children--especially the young and noisy kind--but I'm starting to realize I should stop assuming people are bothered by them*. Through Monkey I've learned that if I stop being embarrassed by a pre-schooler's inquisitiveness and his newfound courage to talk to strangers, I can witness a lot of little kindnesses I would have missed.
*That is, unless we're on an airplane.