Saturday, December 28, 2013

Like a Child

I love people. I really do. Men and women, teenagers and the elderly, all are beautiful, all are deserving of undying love. But I have always had a special place in my heart for children.

Children. As I write the word, I smile. I remember all the beautiful, young, smiling faces that I've had the privilege to encounter. I hear their laughter and their little off-beat songs and my heart is full of happiness. I love children.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I could go on for days talking about all the reasons why. Their innocence, their lack of fear, their willingness to say what everyone else is only thinking regardless of who it may offend - there is so much that we have to learn from them. But I am here today to write about one specific thing that I adore about children, one superpower of theirs that has always blown my mind: their ability to love.

They don't do much of anything halfway and love is no exception. They love you or they don't, all the way or not at all, and you always know what side they're on. Now, I certainly believe that it is our job to love all people because all people are deserving of it. But there's something to be said about the way they love.

It doesn't take a lot to convince a kid to love you. Say something encouraging or sneak them a piece of candy and they are sold on the belief that you are the greatest thing to ever walk the face of the planet. And they will do handstands (sometimes literally) to show you how much they love you. They will tell you how great you are and defend you against anyone who would dare to even imply otherwise. They draw you pictures and bring you adorable little crafts that they make or doodads that they find, if only because they were thinking of you when they made or found them. And they know you are capable of doing absolutely anything.

When a child loves you, they see only the best in you. They may recognize the fact that you are flawed, but they don't really notice or even care very much. They know that people are inherently good and they believe that everyone has the potential to be the best possible version of themselves at all times. They tell you all about how good you are. And it doesn't matter how much of a jerk you are or how badly you hurt them, they will leap at the chance to forgive you and continue to show you love.

This is the thing I love best about children: how they manage to love unconditionally. Even if they are rejected or broken or talked down to, they still manage to find within their little hearts the ability to love. This concept is foreign to the majority of the adult population. When is it that this remarkable gift gets kicked out of us? Somewhere along the line, children get a heavy dose of "reality", they learn to fear, they cease to dream, and they forget about how everyone deserves unconditional love.

If a five-year-old girl was to dance up to her mother (because when are little girls not dancing?) and tell her that she had fallen in love with a boy, her mother's response would likely be to tell her daughter that she had no idea what she was talking about.

"You're just a child."

"You're too young."

"You don't even know what love is."

But nothing could be farther from the truth. If children don't understand love, and know how to do it the right way, then I will be so bold as to say that no one does.  Love is sacrifice. It's an action. It's a gosh-darned choice and it has nothing to do with whether or not you "understand" it. There is no simpler concept in the world to grasp than that of love.

Who was it that Jesus said was the greatest? We are to become like little children, humble, honest, and overflowing with the capability to love. If everyone did this, if we all took some time to model our behavioral tendencies slightly more after children, the world would be a far more pleasant place to live.

I want to figure out how to do that again. I want to be able to forgive and forget and serve and love with the grace of a child. I think all adults could benefit greatly from doing he same.

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