We awoke on Sunday with Portland plans: driving to a food truck in Lee’s 1990’s Subaru. Driving around the city, we first found ourselves in one of Portland’s many “food pods,” a collection of food trucks located in one central area where you can enjoy anything from fresh sushi or Thai to even Brazilian cuisine. Prices are usually quite reasonable and the food is all-around exceptional. After filling up, we drove through town to Grant Park, a beautiful green space alongside Grant High School and its impressive football field and tennis courts.
Immediately after stepping out of the car, Nate’s eyes were drawn to a man and his son kicking around a soccer ball on the field. The young boy stood at the goal deflecting the light shots on goal his dad delivered. The boy couldn’t have been more than five or six, but he stood in his ready stance waiting for each ball. His dad would pause now and then to give him a tip, telling him to move this way or that depending on where the ball was. We moved down to the field with a frisbee and stood playing near the father and son.
As we continued to play, we noticed the continued playfulness of the boy’s father and how each of them seemed to equally enjoy their time together. One of our frisbee throws ended up in the direction of the soccer duo and Nate walked to retrieve it. The father approached in the same direction and Nate greeted him and introduced himself. The man introduced himself as Oliver and his son, Lucien. “We noticed the two of you playing some soccer together,” Nate told the father. Oliver told us he was originally from Australia but had lived in Portland for the last six years or so. As we chatted, we could tell Lucien was getting eager to continue kicking the ball around, and Oliver eased him softly, assuring his son they’d continue in a minute.
We told Oliver that it was difficult not to notice the fun the two of them were having. He thanked us but reminded us it was just his role as a father; he truly enjoyed the quality time the two of them were able to spend together. With guidance from some Project Wildness followers, Nate explained to Oliver what we were doing across the country. He was intrigued by the idea and wished us the best on our travels. Before leaving, Nate pulled out a gift card to Fred Meyer, a regional grocery store chain, and told Oliver we wanted to recognize his positive example of being a great dad.
Oliver didn’t hesitate to share some of his own selflessness. After handing him the gift card, Oliver said, “You know, this is incredibly generous of you. But I just can’t help thinking that there is probably someone out there who could use this more than me.” He didn’t immediately think of alleviating some of his family’s grocery expenses or buying school supplies, but instead Oliver suggested passing on what he so deserved to someone else. We were surprised and pleased to see yet another example of people wanting to help others. When we first started this project, one of our hopes was to see examples of people doing good across this country. Oliver was one of those good-hearted people.
With his suggestion in mind, we turned the tables a little. We told Oliver he deserved what we’d given him, but if he chose to do something for someone else with it, he very well could. “So kind of a pay-it-forward idea,” he said nodding his head. He seemed to like the idea and agreed to accept the gift card.
What we love about moments like this is not knowing where this one act will end. Perhaps Oliver positively affects the life of another person or more people with what he is able to do. And perhaps that chain continues. We may never know, but there is joy in the unknown. There is joy in wildness.
Children deserve plenty, but they most deserve our time. #ProjectWildness
To Brent and Emily H… You suggested we recognize parents who showed their children their time and love. As you do as parents, Oliver is a similar example of giving of yourselves to your children. Many parents can provide possessions, but the best parents give of their time. We truly loved this idea, and it in itself shows that you are parents who value that time over anything else. Thanks for such a great idea, and thanks for your support!
To Danelle and Eric C… We loved that you had asked us to find a parent in a park ignoring their electronic devices for some quality time with their children. We found that parent in Oliver and were able to recognize him thanks to you. You emphasize the importance as parents yourselves of that quality time and attention. Continue being the great people and parents you are, and thanks so much for helping make this happen!
To Larry and Anne E… The two of you have been figureheads in the community since I was a child. I remember seeing you ride your horses in parades and always wanting to be up there as well. You gave to this project to support a local cause with a national reach. Know that today what you provided went to a deserving father and son in Portland, OR, who could potentially expand that reach even more. Thanks for your trust and belief in what we’re doing, and thanks for your contribution!