I come from a small community—about 6,000 people, spread out over 50,000 or so acres —the kind of place where there really is no such person as a stranger. It is commonplace to see people holding an infant who are not related to the child or the child’s parents.
The only other places I have ever lived in the United States are a mid-size Midwestern town of 80,000 and the squeezed-together small town landscape of western Massachusetts. I have rarely seen anyone holding an infant who is not the child’s parent in either place, and I almost never see anyone asking or offering to hold a stranger’s baby. I suppose one reason for this might be that people do not know and trust one another as much as they do where I grew up, but parents also seem uncomfortably (from my perspective) proprietary with their children.
So this past weekend while in a local coffee shop I was surprised last weekend to see the older couple in the photo below ask if they could hold the little girl of the couple sitting next to them. The little girl’s father was apparently also surprised, because he got out his point-and-shoot to make a picture of the event!