Friday, March 22, 2013

Teaching to Love (or to hate) through example

I love children. They are absolutely the most wonderful people.

Yesterday morning, while I was sitting in the doctor’s office, awaiting my turn, the most beautiful little girl – she had to be about two at the most – stopped in front of me. Her mommy was ready to leave, but the little girl stood in front of me, entranced – by what, I’m not sure, perhaps she could tell how much I love children. Her mother called out to her several times so they could leave, but instead of going back to her mother, she edged closer to me. What could I do? Her mother wanted to go home, and I can’t say I blamed her, not one whit! I, myself, had already been there for two hours, and they were there before I got there.

So, I stood up and walked over to my new little friend; she was so tiny! I’m 5’5” tall, and this little girl only came up to my knees. I reached out my hand and, full of trust, my little friend took my proffered hand and we walked over to her mother. Once we arrived, she let go of my hand and reached out both arms to her mother, who immediately picked her up and hugged her. As they turned to go my friend waved good-bye. “Good-bye, sweetie,” I said waving back. “Good-bye, beautiful lady,” said her mother (I think the mother may have needed glasses). The sweet episode warmed me to the very core of my heart.

Children are so sweet, so trusting, so innocent and above all, so loving and forgiving. And they share these traits freely with everyone. They do not think that one person is less or more deserving of their love and trust than another until they have been taught – by the example of that person or others. Children learn quickly, especially during the first three years of their life, and will quickly adapt to what they are taught. This little girl’s mother was a very good example for her daughter. Everything about us was apparently very different and yet, to our way of thinking, the differences were completely unimportant.

Today, there is so much hatred and fear in our world – fear and hatred generated by people acting on the fear and hatred that they were taught by others.

For many years, I taught young children between the ages of 3 and 12 in church. One time the lesson involved comparing two children in the class. One of the children had light-colored skin, long, straight blond hair and blue eyes, and was very shy. The other had very dark skin, curly black hair, dark brown eyes and was very outgoing. One was taller than the other, and one was a boy and the other was a girl (a very scary difference, indeed, at that age). There were indeed a few differences, but we discovered that there were more similarities than differences: they both had two arms and hands, two legs and feet, two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth and most important, they both had a heart. They both loved their family and their friends.

And this is exactly the way it is throughout the world. True, no two of us are going to have exactly the same outward appearance (unless, of course, we are twins), but that is much less important than what is inside us. So, why is it that we adults, instead of looking inside to find the things that are common between us – the things that are important – search out the things that are different and, because they ARE different, we say that they are wrong, that they are bad and that we should stay away in order to avoid being ‘infected’ as though it were a disease to be different.

This attitude is so wrong. I know many people whose religion, or skin color, or nationality or total appearance or culture are totally different than mine. They come from all walks of life and education and even have political views that differ from mine. Does this mean that they are horrible and that I should avoid them at all costs? I certainly hope not, because then I would have very few friends and my life would be very boring indeed. We are all different, but we all have at least two things in common – we are all human beings and we all want to be happy.

Observe the children; combine their sweetness, their trust, their innocence, their love and forgiving hearts with knowledge and, with our example, teach them that these things are right, not wrong. Only by teaching the good things through our example can we eliminate the hatred and fear that are the true ‘disease’ that afflict our world today.