Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Moment of Rinkside Zen

Stitch doesn't want to go to Nationals. He wants to be on TV, and he wants to be Rink Guard.

He wants to be a Rink Guard, like, RIGHT NOW. Nothing lights up his day as much as when his Guard friends tell him to set out or pick up the cones. Whenever I look up at Public Skate and don't see him, he's usually in the lobby, skates dangling off the floor as he hangs off the office counter and begs for a Guard jacket. The Public Skating Manager can't wait to hire him, but there's at least five or six years before she can do that. "It's really sad when a seven year old can catch the folks with cameras faster than the twenty year olds," she sighs.

It's also sad that the Camera Hazards don't listen to the estute seven year old when he tells them it's dangerous. Just last week we had a cell phone fall and shatter into six pieces on the ice, every one of them a ticket to a broken limb or worse. The Go Anywheres don't listen to him either, as they traipse up onto the concrete, grinding off their edges and making me hate them just for that awful sound it makes. (Their resulting fallfest is Karma for my ear damage.)

They don't listen to him when he tells them not to linger near the Ice Door, which I've dubbed The Maul Zone. The Ice Door at public skate is crammed with parents filming the next Michelle Kwan, moms doing The Bird, boys in hockey skates upending themselves, blades flying everywhere, little girls in princess cotumes hanging onto the wall for dear life and Freestyle skaters just leaping through the throng without a thought to the stroller someone left just inches from the plexi. Yes, there's a baby in it.

They don't listen to him when he tells them not to cut through the middle, because that's for Practice. Is he practicing? No, he's too busy playing Rink Guard. But I don't mind. In fact, I think this is great.

If Stitch is picking up on my Service philosophy, that's fantastic. There's lots of ways he can earn his keep, and not all of them are a shade of green. If he wants to be a Rink Guard but is under the legal working age, let's talk about Work in exchange for Practice Ice. If he's a decent skater in coming years and can help Coach with her Tots, maybe they can work out a Coaching Exchange.

Me, I'm happy to throw myself where I'm needed. If I have something to do I'm less likely to whine and better than that, I'm not stuck listening to anecdotes about how wonderful Muffy is. I'm not really happy somewhere unless I'm being useful. So, sure, I'll pick up trash after a hockey game, let's talk ice coupons. I'll pitch in during Ice Show if it will make the Coaches keep an eye out for Stitch on Practice Ice.

It's not just material, though. I teared up last weekend as we were departing Public Skate. We passed one of the office staff ladies who is in a motorized wheelchair. I waved good night and walked on. Stitch didn't realize she was waiting for her bus, and he stopped. "Hang on a second," he says, running back to go hold open the door for her.

She laughed and explained that her bus wasn't there yet and it was too cold to wait outside, but thanks anyway. Stitch smiled and said good night.

"When we are in the habit of being peace, we naturally go in the way of service." So says Thich Naht Hahn. Be peaceful, Stitch. They'll listen to you someday, and I think the right people are listening now.

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