The streets of Vienna were used to children. The cobbled stones enjoyed echoing little footsteps and excited giggles; the lights secretly glowed a bit brighter with every little handprint on the lamppost; the windows looked on and reflected eager faces and sunny smiles. At night, they all talked about the boys and girls they saw during the day, and complained a little at the luck of the toy machines on the streets – they, after all, could make the children smile and laugh with just one turn of a little handle.
The toy machines were very pleased with themselves, but never admitted it – they understood that it’s not really nice, drawing attention to your abilities. They were full of different toys - rings and bracelets and bouncing balls and cars... They spoke the universal language of children and understood kindness. They were gift machines, after all.
One sunny, summery morning, the toy machines were warming to the day, waiting for the children to come by, and passing time talking to the pigeons that walked past. The echo of footsteps reached them, and they recognised the light step of a 6 year old. Minutes later, they heard voices – a little girl was definitely heading their way, and the machines with the rings and bracelets prepared to pick a pretty gift for the child.
The little girl ran up and down the street, laughing and talking to her parents, who strolled behind her. She stopped by every house, looked in all the shops, scared away a few pigeons and only then noticed the strange looking machines on the sidewalk. Ever the curious one, she came a little closer and saw the metal and glass boxes…full of toys! She stopped by the ones with rings and candy…went right past the one with cars, and almost went back to the rings – but then she saw the very last machine, full of strange looking balls…they looked like little planets, just like the one she and her parents and lots of other people lived on. She knew what her planet looked like, because she read about it in her books – and this was indeed her planet. Lots of planets – that looked like they could bounce!
The streets and windows and toy machines of Vienna could not speak the girl’s language – but they understood everything she said, for her face spoke the universal language of children. Her eyes sang as she looked up to her Mommy, and her hands tugged on her Daddy’s sleeve. Her heart was already inside this strange device on the sidewalk, with the bouncing worlds that fit perfectly into the sweaty, sticky, smudged palm of every 6 year old.
Vienna watched the little girl refuse to accept the ‘Not now, honey’ – to her, every ‘honey’ was a cue to ask one more time, just a little louder. Her mother blushed slightly, as she knelt down, taking her little girl by the hands and whispering in her ear. They didn’t notice the woman that stopped next to them until she tapped the little girl on the shoulder and smiled.
She held a bouncing world in her hands.
And it didn’t matter that they were strangers to one another, from different countries. The language of kindness is, after all, universal.