You know how you read the newspaper (or whatever passes for a newspaper in your world – for me it’s the Google news homepage and my blog feed reader) and by the time your coffee is tepid you’ve discovered thirteen new ways in which The World Is Going To Hell In A Handbasket?
Like most people, I find it shockingly easy to fall into a pit of media-induced-fretting if I pay too much attention to the news. I have found the solution (other than paying the minimum possible amount of attention to all forms of newsmedia) to be the kids of my neighborhood.
Now, I may be biased because I live in a pleasant little suburb. It’s like the Town That Time Forgot: a cute, safe, friendly little place with a proper downtown shopping core, a farmer’s market and a barbershop that actually has one of those candycane poles. The residents are either (A) old Norwegians who shouldn’t be allowed to drive, or (B) families looking for a nice place to raise kids.
At our recent annual Block Party (we mill around, eat barbecue and engage in very subdued defiance of open container laws), the kids on the street were all polite and appropriate and cool. They threw frisbees and swung on tire swings and rolled things up and down the hill. A few of the neighborhood kids really took to the chickens. Some of them spent a good part of the evening hanging out in the coop.
I am not, as a rule, a “kid person.” I love my own children profoundly, and I find babies adorable and older kids fun. I love talking with kids who have something to say – they have such interesting observations! – and so long as a child at my house is polite (I’m a stickler for manners) and not overly dangerous, we get along great. But I don’t do well with chaos, I’d make a lousy, harried schoolteacher, and I’m not huge on getting down on the floor and playing kid games, if you know what I mean.
So I don’t come at this from some starry-eyed, the-miracle-of-children perspective. Frankly, many kids bug me and I’ve met a few who…well, let’s just say they wouldn’t be welcome in my home. But the kids in my ‘hood are great. They are kind, thoughtful, interesting little people who act respectfully to each other and to grown ups. They treat animals well, they treat babies well, they ask intelligent questions, they like to pick and eat fruits and vegetables, and they have fun and run around and do what kids should do.
Sometimes they throw tantrums or get defiant or hurt each other’s feelings or tromp through my vegetable beds (two of my blueberry plants were mysteriously uprooted after my yard became the de facto play zone the evening of the barbecue, but I got them back in the earth quickly and I don’t believe any lasting damage was done). But they also listen and watch out for each other and learn from their mistakes.
When you are surrounded by little people like this, it’s a tonic against the fatigue of bad news that springs forth from the adult world. These little people – and millions more just like them – they will save the world, if we grown ups can just avoid screwing them up on their journey to adulthood. They give me hope.
What about you? Do the children you interact with give you hope, or just a headache?