It’s hard to notice anything as you’re heading to work. Not only is it early enough that sleep is still difficult to shake off, you’re trying to prepare yourself for the busy day ahead. Your mind is whirling with a thousand different thoughts and plans, and with its dulling from sleep this is akin to something a lawnmower trying to trim sidewalk. The world around you might as well not exist. It’s the time of day in which it’s hard to even notice that anyone else is even around, let alone see them as real human beings.
But sometimes a moment can cut through that, and a few weeks ago one did. I have to admit that I don’t quite remember details of what exactly the moment consisted of, but I do remember enough that I can summon the feeling it invoked with ease. It was a child and his mother, waiting patiently for the bus, when he suddenly burst from her arms, a mad smile on his face, her fingers trailing over his belly. It was something I’m sure we’ve all experienced, a mother tickling her child. But there was something special about this moment that stuck with me.
It was his laugh that cut through the quiet, uncaring lethargy of the morning. It was the kind of laugh that it feels like we almost never hear, in a world of chuckles and giggles and half-laughs, a world where it feels like we so rarely smile genuinely. This laugh had body. Though the child laughing it barely did - he couldn’t have been more than three feet tall and the laugh hovered undeniably in the soprano range only very young children can reach - there was something about it that resonated with all the power of a throbbing bass drum. It was the sheer joy in it, the undeniable force of his happiness, a happiness that wasn’t just the product of being tickled, but of being tickled pink.
It was that child’s happiness that stayed with me throughout the rest of the day, the sheer pleasure that could be milked from such a simple moment. In a world in which we so infrequently laugh with pure joy, hearing this child laugh with no agenda other than to express deep happiness was profoundly affecting. It was contagious, and I felt myself smiling as I walked past him to the subway and for the rest of the day. It was a moment in which that boy, and his happiness, was as real to me as if I had been laughing along with him or had been the one making him laugh. It was moment in which I truly wish I’d had a camera.
With excitement and optimism,