I went to the Twins game on Sunday to watch Santana dismantle the Tigers, and I noticed (another) big difference between kids in Minnesota and in New York City. The Twins had a pre-game run the bases race for two kids, and one kid was way out in front of the other. The mascots kept tripping and knocking him down to let the other kid catch up, so much so that the other kid got to home plate first. But instead of winning the race, the second kid waits for the first kid to get up so they can step on home plate together.
There was a crazy spirit of un-competitiveness going on all game. One Tiger threw a ball to a little girl in our section early on in the game, but she missed it and it wound up going to another kid. I couldn't believe it when this kid passes up on the chance to take the ball home and gives it back to the girl. The niceness doesn't stop at the Metrodome, which feels kind of like Scandinavia with all the blond people. The kids in my building (mostly Somali and Ethopian kids) are extremely friendly - they hold the elevator door open for everyone, they help me lock my bike up most days, they don't beat up their little brothers. In New York, by the time kids get to middle school they are defensive and while some are friendly, there is a edge of toughness around everyone. I had a few immigrant kids who had just gotten to the US before 8th grade, and I noticed big changes in how they acted by the end of the year (some of their new characteristics were directly attributable to prevailing attitudes in the school, especially on the racial divides between black and Mexican kids, and these kids became very good at looking after themselves). I'm going to try and volunteer in an after-school program with Latino kids here in Minneapolis, so I'll see if my initial impressions of these differences are really there. It just seems like a whole other world.