Published: Feb 16, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 16, 2013 04:38 PM
My mother used to say I would lose my head if it werent screwed on.
That is only one of the many endearing things mothers say to build their childrens self-esteem and logical thinking skills, along with If you fall and break your neck, dont come crying to me and Dont put that in your mouth; you dont know where its been when its blindingly obvious that particular coat hanger has been in your closet your whole life.
Parenting is an art, and we are not all gifted artists.
Recently my grown son said, I have this vague memory of being about 4 and wearing green socks with a rubber band stretched longways to make my feet look like a Ninja Turtle. Please tell me you did not actually let me go to the mall like that.
We may not all be artists but some of us are pretty good at stand-up.
I say this because a friend who is a very funny man recently lost his son in a car accident. Another dear family here lost their remarkable daughter around the same time.
It is important to acknowledge those losses for a multitude of reasons, one of which is to remind ourselves how profoundly every life affects a community. We are changed by knowing these young folks. Their lives encourage us to live ours in bigger, more meaningful ways.
Mario, like most preschoolers, loved costumes and superheroes. One morning when he was 3 or 4, his two older sisters left the house walking down the driveway to meet their carpool. Mario desperately wanted to say goodbye but he was in the bath, so his mother wrapped a large towel around the little guy and pinned it at the neck. About halfway down the drive, a sudden epiphany stopped Mario in his tracks. He paused, flung open the towel like a superhero cape, and shouted, Naked Man!
I do not know what justice Naked Man fought for, but Katie probably would. From a young age, she had a fierce sense of justice. I think she was 10 or 11 when she attended a basketball camp with some friends. During the week, the camp somehow swung toward evangelism and one of Katies teammates was Jewish. I dont recall whether Katie refused to play or how she expressed her dismay at this wrongheadedness, but I do know that at an age when most of us are scoping out the best ways to be included, she was standing up for how we can include others.
The brave justice and flagrant humor these two young people brought to the world is something we can grab hold of, even as we remind ourselves how incredibly time-sensitive a life is. We cannot afford to lose a single bright child from our midst. But we do, all the time, in our own communities, and not only to tragic illnesses and accidents. We lose kids to neglect and to poverty but mostly to our own defensive assumption that some situations cant be helped.
A great spiritual teacher once said: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for reminding us.
Today, Feb. 17, is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Surely one of the most fun days of the year, we should participate with abandon. Acts of kindness expand our capacity for creativity and nourish our souls. But in a society as segregated as ours, how much do our random kindnesses cross boundaries? When we think about it, maybe our acts are not so random after all. Maybe we owe it to ourselves to turn some of those random expressions into totally intentional ones.
Until such time as we effectively address poverty in our country, we need to address it as a community of kind folk who believe in the power of inclusion to make us better people. At a time when the poorest and most disadvantaged children are concentrated into the most under-resourced schools, providing the additional resource of yourself is maybe the most important thing you will ever do. Because the odds are astronomically high that a child born into poverty in our country will remain there. And that is simply not acceptable in a kind community.
Mentor a kid. Befriend a child and a family in whatever way makes sense to you. Practice the art of friendship. You will enrich that young persons life in measurable ways. But they will transform yours in ways that are beyond measure. Do it because you can. Do it in the memory of every young person who left us too early. Do it now, because we cant afford to wait.