The Bubble Man

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

Sometimes I miss seeing sky.

Living in the city has benefits (if it didn’t, who would live here, right?) but seeing sky is not one of them. From my South Philly rowhome I can only see the sky if I stand right next to a window and look straight up. And that can make me feel a little hemmed-in, a little claustrophobic.

That’s how I was feeling last week, and Bill was too. We realized we hadn’t spent a night outside the city in over a year, so we decided to take a little weekend road trip. We’d never been to Ocean City, Maryland before, so that’s where we went.

It was a nice, relaxing weekend.

We saw a lot of new sights, including the wild horses at Assateague—which I’ve always wanted to see. But the thing that really stands out in my memory is something that took me by surprise. . . .

We were strolling along the boardwalk on Saturday night, when I glanced toward the ocean and something caught my eye. 15 or 20 feet from the boardwalk, standing on the sand, was a man blowing bubbles . . . HUGE bubbles. He was beyond the lights of the boardwalk, so we couldn’t see him very well, but the bubbles he made were very dramatic and very visible. The man had two long sticks with a loop of rope fastened between them. He dipped the rope into a 5-gallon bucket of bubble liquid then lifted the sticks into the air where the ocean breeze blew through the loop, making beautiful bubbles—some of them 5 or 6 feet in diameter, many of them 15 or more feet in length.

Although it was dark where the man was standing, the colored lights from businesses on the boardwalk illuminated the bubbles. Shifting gusts of wind made them move and seem to be alive. (The bubble in the photo above looked like a sea monster to me!)

The bubbles were like nothing I’d seen before; I was mesmerized.

We watched for 10 or 15 minutes then, before tearing ourselves away, we yelled, “Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” the man replied, his voice muffled by the sound of the sea.

As stunning as those bubbles were, as I reflect on that night, I find myself thinking more about the man who makes them.

He stands silently in the dark. He wears plain clothing which makes him fade into the night. He is anonymous: if I had sat next to him at breakfast the next morning, I’d never have known it was him. He has no sign saying who he is, or asking viewers to “like” him on Facebook, or saying that he’s available for hire for birthday parties. He has no tip jar. (He seems to go through a lot of bubble soap, which I presume he pays for himself.)

He asks for nothing in return.

So why does he do it?

I didn’t ask him, but I like to imagine he’d say that he does it because it makes people happy. That it’s his small way of making the world a more joyful, more magical place. That it’s his way of giving back, paying it forward . . . his way of “letting his little light shine.”

Blowing bubbles may not seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things, but the bubbles I saw that night brought me so much unexpected joy.

They gave me the sense that life holds possibilities I hadn’t considered before.

They somehow renewed my sense of hope.

Which made me wonder:  

What if we all did some little thing that by itself doesn’t seem to matter much—without looking for recognition . . . without asking for anything in return.

All those little things might add up and end up being something really BIG.

And that would be something to see.

#kindness #payitforward #altruism #perspective #wonder #OCMD

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