Sunday, November 14, 2010

she's a giver

My niece is 15 months old. She's been walking for about one month and says just a few words, mostly daddy. She understands many words and ideas- where's the duck. Show mommy. Come walk with me. No. By 15 months she has come this far- walking talking listening thinking and giving.

I am amazed that at such an early age the joy of sharing arrives. She picks up a leaf in the yard and brings it to someone. Always with a smile and an extended hand. She sees her favorite book, goes to it, picks it up and brings it to someone. She eats delicious food and extends her next bite to you.

So unique to humans, I think, is this quality of sharing, of offering what we love to those around us. Is it evidence that humans have an innate desire to connect with other humans? She wants others to share in her joy and pleasure. And doing so gives her joy and pleasure. We all say thank you and clap and get all silly because she has done this and she laughs and smiles and looks proud as can be about what she has done. And she keeps doing it. Over and over until we have laps full of crunchy leaves, books about ladybugs, and pieces of sticky cheese.

I wonder what will happen to this generosity. When she gets older will we stop celebrating and clapping for her and simply thank her? Will that be enough to nurture generosity? Will she be disappointed one day when no one cheers at her offering, leaving her a little less joyous and a little less willing?

I want her to live in a world where everyone cheers for generosity. Where the act of offering is celebrated as the true gift. I want her to find joy in giving. I want her to continue to see crunchy leaves and pieces of cheese as beautiful and meaningful gifts.

If that means I need to clap and get silly whenever she gives me something, I'll do it. I might be that crazy aunt who embarrasses her at the school play, but if she can grow up to offer others pieces of her life with a generous smile, it'll be worth it.

for my teachers

tell me to jump
and i won't ask
how high
because whatever happens naturally
will be exactly perfect for you

lift and lower
rise and fall
smile and weep
petals blown
soft and easy
scattering without regard
settling exactly perfect for you

you say and i do
i'll do whatever you say
to be exactly perfect for you