MINOT — The van’s bright yellow exterior, accented by pastel, candy-colored sun rays immediately grabbed my attention. My children were more focused on the massive bubbles being blown in front of the Oak Park amphitheater. I followed, but kept side-eyeing that lovely van, wondering what sort of brilliant idea may be operating out of its large windows.
This at the Build-A-Bubble event hosted by Minot Parks and Recreation. The evening was perfect. Not too warm. Not too buggy. Not too humid.
Families with kids ranging in age from barely-able-to-walk to barely-legal-to-drive, gathered around tubs of bubble liquid on the lawn. Music played, and we all attempted to create six-foot bubbles from dowel rods and string.
My youngest, now 21 months old, was most drawn to the amphitheater stage where a bubble machine was filling the air with small, perfectly-poppable orbs. Meanwhile, I kept glancing at the crowd on the hill near the van.
Then, a gentle voice said, “Would you like to pet the dog?”
Immediately, I recognized one of the trainers and dogs from the Reading Education Assistance Dogs Program, or READ, we’ve attended at the library. My sons quickly, eagerly accepted the invitation.
After I thanked the trainer, she said, “Be sure to go up to the van. They’ve got free ice cream for kids.” At this, my four-year-old took off running. “And books,” she added. “Each child gets to choose a book.”
Hello Sunshine: Ice Cream and Books. Now that we weren’t bee-lining toward bubbles I could read the text on the side of the van.
A woman at the window pointed toward neatly sorted bins and shelves of books that created an open-air library.
“Go pick a book, then come back to the window for ice cream. The book acts like a ticket for your treat,” she said.
So we did. And it was wonderful. And we’ve read those books many times since.
But I can’t stop thinking about that evening spent in the park, and the gosh-darn-goodness of it all. I can’t shake the giddy awe, the grateful excitement I feel just to be alive, and living in Minot, North Dakota at this very moment in time.
If you are from here, moments dripping with kindness and creativity may seem commonplace. Maybe you don’t notice the unusually high number of good ideas that get off the ground around here. The quirky ways people care for each other may be easy to overlook if you are used to seeing them.
Let me assure you, it’s not like this everywhere.
I go back to the Build-A-Bubble event because it encapsulates so many good things in one concise instance:
A van that offers free books and ice cream to children in high-needs neighborhoods and park events—because a successful way to improve reading skills among low-income children is to make books more accessible—is not something you’ll find in just any town. It’s an idea, spearheaded by a passionate elementary school teacher, and embraced by a community because around here, creative kindness is welcome.
A Parks Department brimming with ideas, that make living in NoDak unbelievably enjoyable.
Trainers with therapy dogs that show up at events, schools, and even the university finals week—because petting a calm dog is soothing, and happiness inducing.
The good ideas don’t stop there. There are too many to name in one location, and new ideas are taking shape all the time. I can’t keep up with them all. We’ve got free story times, sensory-friendly movie screenings, a diaper pantry, a free shower program, free pregnancy ultrasounds, and community lunch offered nearly every day of the week.
This is a place that lets good ideas grow. This is a place that gets behind creative ways to make life nicer, more bearable, kinder.
Friends, candy-colored vans are passing out ice cream and books to children on hot, summer evenings. What a time to be alive!
Whether you are in North Dakota, or just wish you were—don’t let the goodness around you go unnoticed. Support good ideas when you see them. If you’ve got a good idea of your own, be brave enough to try it out.
To connect with me, see how I spend my days in Minot, or get a little more positivity for your day, find me on Instagram, @amy_allender or Facebook, @amyallenderblog.