What shapes us? For some, it seems
We are born deep down knowing who
We are…and for others, it is the
Events and circumstances in our lives
That make us who we are…Or
Maybe it is a mixture of both.
On a playground, in a park, in the
Late 70’s…it was a Sunday afternoon
Where a few families had gathered
After church services for casual
Socializing and snacks.
The adults were more rigid with their
Behavior, as they had to
Maintain proper behavior casually to
Demonstrate how good they were even outside
Of church clothes. But for the kids,
It was a bit more loose, as they
Got to run and play on the park’s
Recreational sets…as far away from
The adults as possible.
But being that it was a weekend,
And a Sunday meant that there
Were other families and other
Children around as well. A little
Intimidating for church kids, and very
Entertaining for more free-wheeling
Other youths. Kids always have to
Prove themselves…and there are always
The weak and the strong…and the
Older kids and the younger ones; in
Other words, the younger have the
First, the older kids ran amuck,
Taking over everything…establishing
Regional hierarchy, leaving the younger
Ones to the sandbox and toddler
Stuff with toys. It was a jungle…
Parents only conveniently payed attention
To their sweet angels, kids will be
Kids…Let them play, it’s all
Harmless life lessons. Adult issues
Are always far more important,
As long as they are walking and
Talking…the kids are okay. If any
Damage is done, they will sort it out
Later, pat it on the back…a standard,
Set of printed hand-manual
Advice…and you move on. It’s always
In those moments when parents aren’t
Looking that things happen, then
They laugh and don’t believe it;
The golden rule, the unspoken rule.
So, after the teenagers grew tired
Of the swings and jungle gyms for the ball
Field, the younger kids moved in…And
The second hierarchy begins…Fast, loud ones
First…Quiet ones last. Dominance,
Popularity, it’s always there and never
But off to the side, lingering in
The sandbox, playing with some animal
Toys, was a little chubby white boy and a
Larger (same age) chubby black boy;
Both were quiet and had barely
Talked much so far. But the
Little black boy kept watching the
Little white boy, he really liked the
Toys he had. “I really like your
Animals.” He said.
And the little white boy was so
Happy he talked to him that he
Picked one up and gave it to him.
No one ever talked to him,
They never asked him questions…
They just pointed, laughed, judged…
He had a lisp, he was afraid to talk.
Kids, adults were vicious with criticism,
Ruthless. You had a speech impediment…
You were stupid, you were retarded back
Then, that’s it.
“For me?” The little black boy asked.
“Ah huh.” The little white boy nodded.
“Thanks.” The little black boy said happily
With big eyes. “Can I play with it?
I won’t break it.”
“Keep it.” The little white boy smiled.
“Really?” The little black boy asked.
“Just keep it.” The little white boy
Said with a lisp. “You can have it.”
“Thanks!” The little black boy said.
“I don’t have many toys. Only what
My older brothers and sisters had. We have
To share everything.” The two of them
Played with the little plastic animals
In the sand…and the little black
Boy grew happier with big happy eyes
And said. “You don’t talk much. I’m
“Jeff. They don’t like it when I talk.”
“Why?” Joe asked.
“They say I sound stupid.” Jeff
Said. “I talk funny. Stupid.”
“I don’t think so.” Joe said. “A little
Funny. But that’s ok…No one
Talks to me either.”
‘How come?” Jeff asked.
“The other kids are scared of me.”
Joe answered. “At home, I’m always
In the way.” (Joe, and his family,
At the time, were the 1st black family
“I don’t think so.” Jeff said. “I think
“We should be friends then.” Joe said.
“Other kids, people…they’re so mean.
We should be friends. Ok?”
“Yeah! OK!” Jeff smiled. And that
Was his first friend ever.
“When I grow up, “I’m gonna have
A place and get far away from people.”
Joe said. “Get far away from everyone.
Just me and my animals. People are
Always so mean.”
“Yeah.” Jeff nodded.
“People talk too much.” Joe said. “I swear
One day, they’re gonna be so mean
And noisy, God is gonna make
Them all shut up and go away.
Then it can just be quiet people
Like us, and the animals. No mean
People. No more mean kids.”
“I hope so.” Jeff said. “Do you
Really think so?”
“Yeah.” Joe nodded. “Pray to God.
God can do it. Make all the mean
People go away. They need to be
Quiet more. “My Dad says they
Talk too much and don’t see or
Listen enough. But he doesn’t
See me, he forgets. Parents don’t
Jeff laughed and nodded. “Yeah, you’re
“You should talk more.” Joe Said as
He played with a toy giraffe. “Quiet
People should talk more, and the
Mean people talk less. My Mom says
People who talk too much don’t
Know any better. She talks a lot
Jeff laughed and smiled. “Yeah,
Wow, you’re funny.”
Joe smiled. “Thanks. See you’re not
Stupid. You should talk more. Everyone
Talks too much. My Mom talks too much.”
Jeff laughed. “But what if I
Talked too much?”
“You won’t.” Joe said. “I will be
There to remind you.”
“Ok.” Jeff laughed.
Suddenly, the two of them looked
Up and noticed a commotion near
The ball field and tennis courts.
A very familiar truck with a bell
Had pulled into the park slowly
And all the kids raced straight
For it; almost all. “Hey look,” Joe
Said, “The Ice Cream Truck is
“Yeah. Everyone goes crazy for ice cream.”
“Yeah.” Joe said. “My Dad says that too.
He says people eat too much. Like me.
They eat too much and it makes them
Crazy. My Dad eats a lot though.”
“But you’re not crazy.” Jeff said.
“Thanks.” Joe grinned. “I eat a lot
Though. My Dad eats a lot, but he’s
Not fat like me. He says I eat wrong.
He eats the same things as me
Though. A lot of ice cream. I love
Ice cream. Not the Ice Cream from
The Ice Cream Truck though, my
Dad says there’s something wrong with
It. Hey maybe the ice cream is
Making people crazy?”
“Maybe.” Jeff answered. He watched the
Ice Cream truck as all the kids in
The park lined up to get served; and
Some adults too, of course. Then he noticed
The long black car parked at the end of
The lot…away from the others. “That
Car is there.”
“What car?” Joe asked, looking around.
“That one.” Jeff pointed. “It’s watching
Us.” And the two of them watched
As a few kids ran up to the back
Of the car, to a half open window...
And a mysterious looking hand appeared
Handing out money to the kids. And
Then the children ran to the ice cream
Truck and bought ice cream…for a lot
Of the kids.
“Are they getting ice cream?”
Joe wondered. “For everyone?”
“Free?” Jeff wondered.
“That’s nice though.” Joe said. “Do you
Want to get some?”
“I won’t be allowed to get it.” Jeff said.
“Yeah, me either.” Joe said. “My Dad says
I eat too much. My Dad eats a
“Mine too.” Jeff said.
“They sure are getting them a lot
Of free ice cream.” Joe commented as
He watched the crowd of kids grow
Around the truck. “That’s nice of them.
I hope I’m rich enough so one day
I can do that. I will buy my
Friends lots of good ice cream. Not
The mean kids though, or any
People…my parents buy a lot of
Ice cream but they aren’t rich. My
Dad loves ice cream. He eats a lot of
It. He likes chocolate, I like Vanilla.
So, I never get much. He sure eats
“I like Vanilla.” Jeff said. “You can
“Thanks!” Joe smiled. “You can have
Mine too.” He kept watching the kids
At the ice cream truck and the long
Black car. “The car is watching them.”
“They watch everything.” Jeff said
Playing with the toy animals.
“Why?” Joe asked him.
“They just do.” Jeff answered. “They
Joe scowled at the car trying to
Understand. Then he
Noticed his older brothers and
Sister go to the truck, the kids
Got them free ice cream too. “Hey
My brothers and sister got ice cream
“Maybe they will get you some!” Jeff
“No. They won’t.” Joe answered.
“They never do unless my Dad
Tells them to. But, they’re not
Supposed to do that.” He watched
The crowd of kids grow more
Rowdy as they ate. “Ice cream
Is supposed to make you happy.
They all look crazy.”
“Maybe the ice cream is making
Them crazy, like you said.” Jeff
Joe scowled as he watched them.
“They won’t be nicer now.”
Just then, Joe’s older brothers and
Sister walked over to their little
Brother to join him and Jeff.
“You having fun with your friend
Little brother?” His oldest brother
Asked, then answered for him. “That’s
Real good little brother, real good. You
Guys play, behave and stay out of trouble!”
“How did you get that ice
Cream?” Joe asked them as
His siblings moved to the
Swing sets nearby.
“Some rich lady in that
Limousine was giving out money
For the kids to get ice cream.” His
Older brother answered as he
Swallowed bites of a chocolate covered
Square on a stick. “To be nice
“Oh.” Joe sighed.
“That’s not a lady.” Joe’s sister
Laughed. “That’s some old man
With make-up on and a wig.”
Joe’s brothers laughed, then the oldest
Replied. “Now why would some old
Rich guy wear make-up and a wig?”
“I don’t know.” Joe’s sister said,
Rolling her eyes. But it’s not
A woman. No woman would wear
Make-up like that.”
“How would you know?” Joe’s other
Brother laughed, “You don’t even
“Shut up.” Joe’s sister groaned as
She ate her ice cream sandwich.
“It’s some guy in a costume…
Dressed up in a clown costume?”
Joe’s older brother laughed.
“Come on, it’s some old
Lady being nice to us poor people.”
He laughed at his sister. “She thinks
She knows everything.
“I’m telling you, that’s not a woman.”
Joe’s sister said, eyeing her brother
Strangely. “That’s a man dressed up
Like a woman.”
“Now why would a man do that?”
His older brother laughed, hanging
On the swings. “You’re crazy.”
“Shut up! I am not!” Joe’s sister
Said pointing at the black car
With a sneer. “I’m telling you, that’s
“You’re crazy.” Joe’s brother laughed.
“NO, I’m not.” His sister said with
Wide eyes, as she hung on the
Swing, licking her fingers. “I’m
Telling you, that’s a man…dressed
Up like a woman.”
“You’re nuts.” His brothers laughed.
“NO, I’m not.” She kept insisting.
“I’m telling you, it’s a man.”
“Whatever.” His brothers laughed. “Come
On, let’s go back to the barbecue
And get some hot dogs.” And
The three of them swaggered
Away on in the direction of the
Picnic tables and the parents.
“Behave yourself, little brother.”
Joe kept watching the black car and
The ice cream truck and all the
Kids as they grew wilder. “They’re
“Yeah.” Jeff nodded.
“There’s something about the ice cream
Today.” Joe wondered aloud, then
Turned to his friend. “Did you ever eat the
Ice cream from the truck?”
“No.” Jeff answered. “I never
Eat the ice cream from the truck
Unless my parents get it for me.”
“Yeah. Me too.” Joe answered.
“My Dad sure eats a lot of
Ice cream though, but not from
Joe and Jeff never ate the ice
Cream from the truck.
…and that day, 3 other kids
In the park didn’t either.