Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with the mother of a very wonderful and special little girl. This little girl took it upon herself a few years ago to befriend my son, despite the fact that he was very different to anyone else, when most children her age would have just pointed and stared and maybe just said "what's wrong with that boy." But this little girl was able to look past the wheelchair, the drool, the smelly diapers, the funny way he moved and couldn't control it and the fact that he didn't talk. This sweet little girl always made a point of including my son, and helping him in any way she could, even if it meant she wasn't able to get her own work done. In that first grade year, these two sweet children developed a very special relationship, that was deeply missed and never forgotten when this little girl went on to second grade and Ethan stayed behind to give him more opportunity to learn to ready....but he left her with a gift, a symbol and a reminder of their friendship, and she has never forgotten and her mom has never forgotten and wants their story to be told....and while talking to this young girls mother about the experience these two small children had at just 6 and seven years old, and marveling at how accepting this little girl was and how special this relationship was, and how much it taught everyone around them, something was said about how we need to find a way to teach others and society these pure and precious concepts of love and acceptance that these two little children had for each other. I began to contemplate why and how things change as we age, and to try to remember the magic of my own world when I was a young child, and what changed, why we loose that innocence.
There is a magic of sorts in the innocence of youth, something very special that is somehow lost along the way as we age, why does this big magical world HAVE to grow smaller and smaller and smaller until it is no longer there at all.....as grown ups, why can't we see the big picture? What if there was a way? A way to bring back this mystical wonder of innocence. When I was growing up, my brothers and I like to play a fantasy role playing game and it designated that all children were of a selfish alignment, and while children do tend to be self indulging, I am not sure if I agree with this, my experience as a parent to my own children is they are all basically good, scrupulous if not principled.....now, in a few years when I have four teenagers, perhaps I might sway towards the opinion that they are anarchists, but for now, I have been amazed at how selfless, and cooperative young children are and how eager to please, learn, and do good....perhaps this is self serving as they are motivated by praise and reward? I don't think so. Through these delightful little creatures I get to briefly taste and experience and REMEMBER the magical world I once lived in, the world that was so vast and so full of wonder and hope, and goodness. Why do I think this happens? I will tell you.
Disillusionment....not that I think I was sheltered from something bad until a certain age than then let loose in an evil world, though sometimes it can seem that way, but rather growing up requires that one takes on more responsibility for one's self, and this means that we learn that not everything is good around us, we are exposed to harsh realities, like the fact that there are people in this world who do bad things....or should I say we are bombarded by this as 9 out of 10 stories on the news or in the media are about negative or “bad” things, adult emphasis seems to hover around things that are shocking and terrifying. But rarely do you hear about all the good going on around you, after all a neighbor helping out a neighbor is not news, but your neighbor getting robbed is....BAD has a louder voice than GOOD. Which was not the case as I can remember from before the age of ten....I would ignore the scolding (or at least forget shortly after) but the praise sang in my ears for days and even weeks or months, squabbles between friends were quickly forgotten, but friendships were treasured.
Community....or lack there of. As we grow older and have to depend on ourselves to pay the rent, put food on the table and pay every other bill that comes with adulthood, there is rarely the same kind of support system that was so readily available as a child. As a child I had parents, siblings, friends, teachers, neighbors all looking out for me....but when I became an adult....so did my friends and my siblings, my teachers duties to me were long over and I moved away from parents and neighbors. And all the other adults are focused on the same thing as me....working and paying bills and it TAKES A LOT OF TIME, and unless we step back and make time, we are pretty alone, and a community is not very effective with individuals working only to achieve this mundane task of survival....perhaps if we could use bees as an example, all working together for a common good, they spend time together, help each other and look out for each other.....this is what community is, and what we lost after childhood was gone.....and it can be quite a shock.
Perspective....a change of focus on the small and simple things to the complicated and BIG picture, which is overwhelming and difficult to look at much of the time, which brings a plethora of disturbing things, like depression, loss of self worth, and over all hopelessness.
Poisons....physical and mental, this will be very difficult to accept for some, but take it in and ponder it deeply before you dismiss it. From the time we are born our parents or caregivers are incredibly conscience of what they put in to our bodies and minds. We are fed nutritious foods and our minds are nurtured with principles, education (generally we are not raised listening to profanities and adult themed or violent movies or drinking alcohol and eating fast food at every meal). But at 17 you are suddenly bombarded with the ability to access adult (generally unwholesome) material, at 18 you can legally by poison for your body in the form of cigarettes and a couple years later you can buy alcohol....all of the above things provide an immediate, but short lived and false sense of “feeling good”. But it is a LIE and it can be so dangerous....AND these things tend to be very addictive. How many times as a child were you told to eat your vegetables that they will help you grow big and strong, and that smoking is bad for you, and alcohol is addictive and can make you do stupid things, but suddenly, when you are an adult it is ok? And it is a perpetual downhill spiral if you get hooked on these poisons, and the more involved you get with them, the weaker and weaker you get and the harder and harder it is to break away from the temporary feel good you get, because you feel SO BAD when you don't have them that the tiny little “high” moment is so euphoric compared to the darkness you feel when the poisons are not there....and they have claws and those claws are excruciatingly painful when you try to break away.
Charity....or lack of. This small and simple thing is probably the greatest contributing factor at steeling the magic of innocence. And it goes hand in hand with community. Service is essential to human kind and the human spirit. It benefits all parties involved. We spend an incredible amount of time as parents teaching our children to share....only to forget to share ourselves. Give your time, share your talents, help each other, the blessings are so beyond measure. Do this in the quiet of your soul, be watchful and mindful and you will see opportunities all around you everyday, and it can be as simple as smiling and saying hello to a passing stranger, who unknowing to you just needed to know that someone out there acknowledged that they exist, or volunteer to read a story to a child who is in the hospital, ill and frightened to be away from the safety of home. Go through your possessions and donate something you no longer need, serve food to the homeless.....there can be angels among us, but only if we open our hearts and our minds to be those angels. Even the small and simplest thing can have an impact much greater that we will ever realize.....the stranger you smiled at now has hope and that hope turns in to an act of kindness to another and that other person's faith in human kind was restored and they came up with an idea, which they shared with a co-worker, and that co-worker expanded on that idea and founded a charitable organization, and that organization gave thousands a means to help millions....all from a simple smile, that cost nothing just a fleeting moment of time and a little courage. AND you felt great and your spirit was uplifted because when you smiled and said hello, the stranger smiled back and also said hello....and it snowballs, those that are on the receiving end of an act of kindness are much more likely to return the favor to someone else....and then the magic happens. Children have such giving spirits, they are less worried about feeling silly for doing something that cheers another soul, they are born with a strong desire to learn and help each other....are we just burned out be the time we reach adulthood?
So how do we get beyond all these things? Would we then be able to experience the magic that was so available to us in our youth? I don't know, but I think it is worth a shot....the worst thing that could happen is we might be a little happier, maybe a bit healthier, maybe a little more productive and perhaps a better society....only time will tell, but first you've got to close your eyes, and look deep into your soul and then take a leap of faith and acknowledged the unknown and imagine all the possibilities and then reach for them and never stop.