‘Ding, ding, ding’ is the familiar chimes that accompany the nostalgic ice-cream cart that would be wheeled around by someone on a bicycle with a freezer attached to the front of it. The children playing in their front yards would run inside and hound their parents for spare change and then they would rush the street, surrounding the cyclist, and partaking in fudgsicles, popsicles, and other tasty cold treats. Over the years that approach was upgraded to the ice-cream van, driving ever so slowly down your street, with a simple musical tune repeating itself every thirty seconds. It was annoying enough to convince the parents to give their children some money just to make sure the van didn’t come back for awhile.
A simpler time – a carefree time. So, wasn’t I surprised when a few weeks ago I spotted one of these cyclists pushing their ice-cream cart around the neighborhood where I work. A smile appeared on my face as the ding, ding, ding, complimented the sounds of kids splashing around in the city’s only outdoor pool connected to the park across the street from my office. “Progress”, I thought to myself. A neighborhood, often plagued with bad press and even worse crime stats, saturated with Christian churches and outreach centers, complimented by handfuls of other social service agencies all working hard to make a difference in this place. It is a place where if you don’t know someone directly you have heard of them or you know someone who does know them. A small community within a larger city, struggling to find healing from decades of abuse, addiction, residential school horrors, and gangs.
So, although I wasn’t shocked by the news, I was still saddened to read about this ice-cream vendor being attacked in the middle of the day, in the middle of a street, in the middle of this neighborhood.
“And so this bright spot has now come to an end”, I thought to myself after reading the news. The company quickly put a statement out expressing their outrage at the fact that one of their ice-cream vendors were attacked. There was no way that this neighborhood would ever see another ice-cream vendor. What company would want to place their employees in such danger? Certainly not this particular ice-cream company – that’s for sure.
Two days ago I heard the same bell play its tune. I was outside one of our buildings supervising an outdoor play area that we were constructing for our daycare when down the street I spotted this same ice-cream vendor cycling his cart full of goodies up the street. He paused just in front of our building to talk to some people he knew who where there and that is when I noticed something different about him. He was now wearing a kevlar vest.
The ice-cream vendor was wearing a bullet-proof vest!
This was how the company responded to the attack on their employee, who by the way was attacked with clubs and threatened with a knife. I am not sure how this vest will protect him from the clubs. The employee seemed adjusted to it all, joking about it with his friends out front of our building where he stopped to chat just a moment earlier. After a few minutes of catching up he began cycling down the street, flicking his bell to the ‘ding, ding, ding’ hoping to draw the children out of hiding to purchase one of the tasty treats he was carrying with him.
I suppose there is enough silent commentary in this story to leave it there, however I can’t. You see, the contrast to this story is that a couple nights ago it was particularly hot and I was sitting inside my living room, enjoying the air-conditioning of my home. I was looking outside my window at the vehicles driving by, watching my neighbors out in their yards, looking at the flowers that my wife planted in our front yard – when all of a sudden I heard the simple song repeating itself every 30 seconds. Sure enough, a couple minutes later a full-sized van with multiple air-conditioning units mounted on its roof, complete with a side window where the driver could serve the children without ever needing to leave the comfort of his van – came rolling by.
This ice-cream van was from the exact company who had just equipped their bicycle employee with a kevlar vest. All this time they could have provided their employee with a van – equipped with air-conditioning, to drive around the neighborhood where I work – all in comfort and more importantly – safety. Why hadn’t they? Why was this brand new van driving around in my neighborhood when a cyclist putting his life out on the line is pushing an ice-cream cart around in the other neighborhood? The contrast disgusted me and I was reminded of the short-comings of help and resources greatly needed for this neighborhood where I work. That far too often the resources are only barely enough to demonstrate that the needs are taken seriously and action has been taken, yet in reality they fall so very short of what is really needed, and even more disturbingly, they don’t compare at all to resources being poured into other areas.
Enjoy your ice-cream.